By Angel Krasimirov, Tsvetelia Tsolova, and Renee Maltezou
Bulgarian police have questioned a Roma couple who say they may be the biological parents of a blonde girl named Maria found in a Roma camp in Greece last week, state television said on Thursday.
Local media identified the Roma woman as Sasha Ruseva, 38, from the town of Nikolaevo in southern Bulgaria. She is believed to have given birth in a hospital in central Greece in January 2009, Bulgarian National Television BNT said.
Bulgarian police declined to comment. Footage shown on BNT showed the woman speaking outside a police station.
“I do not know whether she is mine or not. We had a child. We left it in Greece as I had nothing to feed her,” she told reporters. “I did not take any money. My daughter left with a man, so there was no one to look after the other children.”
Ruseva and her husband, Atanas Rusev, 36, have 10 children, five of whom are blonde and closely resemble the four-year-old girl found last week, BNT said, adding that the woman had recognised Maria as her child after seeing TV footage.
The discovery of blue-eyed Maria during a police sweep in a Roma settlement in central Greece on Oct. 16 sparked a global search for her real parents after DNA tests showed the Roma couple she was with were not her blood relatives.
The 40-year-old woman and 39-year-old man have been detained pending trial on charges of abducting a minor but deny the accusations, saying the girl’s biological mother gave her up willingly because she could not raise her.
According to BNT, Ruseva said she left her seven-month-old baby to a woman in Greece four years ago when she and her husband worked in the Greek town of Larissa but needed to go back to Bulgaria to take care of their other children.
The family lives in extreme poverty in a two-room home in a Roma camp in the southern town of Nikolaevo, BNT said.
Ruseva said she was not completely certain that Maria was the child she had left in Greece, but that she would like to take her back, if DNA tests prove the blonde girl is her child.
There are an estimated 10 million Roma living across Europe, and they are one of its oldest minorities. The Council of Europe, which monitors human rights, says they are also the most discriminated against minority on the continent.