SASHA Ruseva claims she gave up her daughter to a woman she met in the street in hope she would have a better life.
The biological mother of Maria, the little blonde girl found living in a Roma settlement in Greece earlier this month, tearfully denied selling her daughter yesterday and insisted she gave her up in the belief the child would have a better life.
Sasha Ruseva (35), the impoverished Bulgarian woman who was identified as Maria's mother by DNA testing, admitted that she had given up her child – to a woman who approached her in the street, not the Roma couple whom Maria was later discovered living with.
"I met a blonde lady one day and we started talking and she told me, 'why don't you leave this kid to me, I don't have kids and I have a comfortable place and the kid can live better with me than the way you live'," Ms Ruseva claimed during an appearance with her husband Atanas (38) and three of their children, on private Bulgarian television station TV7.
She claimed that leaving her daughter in Greece, where she and her husband had been working picking olives, had been a mistake and that she would do anything to get her back.
"I had to return to Bulgaria to take care of my other children when my eldest daughter, who was caring for them, got married," Ms Ruseva said. "But we had no money and then I had another two children.
"I want Maria back! I am her mother, how could I not want her? I do not care what they say. I want Maria back with me," she shouted through tears.
"I am not a criminal," she insisted, adding that she was terrified of going to jail. She faces charges of selling her daughter, a crime that carries a prison term of up to six years.
"I just want to have a house and live there with Maria and my other children, and to care for them all," she added.
Ms Ruseva denied ever having met Christos Salis (39) and Eleftheria Dimopoulou (40) the Roma couple whom Maria was discovered living with during a police raid at the Farsala camp in Greece on October 16.
"I don't know that couple, we never met them. . . We didn't know they had Maria," she said. The pair have been charged with child abduction.
Her story seems to support the theory that Maria may have been intended for sale to a childless couple by a child trafficking gang but that she ended up with the Greek Roma couple after no buyer could be found.
The theory is one being explored by Greek police, who suspect Maria may have been abandoned in Farsala after police broke up a child trafficking network or even that she was rejected by prospective buyers because of an eye defect.
Ms Ruseva said during the interview yesterday that she had been very upset to learn how Maria was being looked after, despite the fact that she and her husband lived in abject poverty in a one-room shack in a Roma community on the edge of Nikolaevo, a small town in central Bulgaria.
"Imagine how I felt when I saw her dancing and begging (in a video) when I never let my other children beg in Bulgaria," Ms Ruseva sobbed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)