Authorities take five of Maria's brothers and sisters into care
THE Bulgarian woman who is the biological mother of Maria, the blonde girl found in a Roma camp in Greece, has had five of her nine other children taken into care
Social services took the children from the home of Sasha and Atanas Rusev, the couple proved to be the biological parents of Maria by a DNA test after an international hunt for her true identity.
The move came as Bulgarian authorities insisted that they would ask Greece to hand over four-year-old Maria, who was found living with a Greek Roma couple two weeks ago during a police raid in Farsala, and would find a home for her.
Maria's biological family lives in poverty, surviving on around €46 in state benefits each month, in a one-room shack in a settlement where children run around barefoot amid open drains.
Mrs Ruseva (35) and her two youngest children, Nasko (3) and Penka (2), were relocated to Stara Zagora yesterday, the regional capital, 25 miles from their Roma ghetto on the outskirts of Nikolaevo.
"Social services have decided to settle Mrs Ruseva and her two youngest children in social housing while the other five under-age (children) will be re-homed for the time being, either in a state institution or with foster families," Kosyo Kosev, the mayor of Nikolaevo, said.
The couple have two older daughters, aged 18 and 20.
Maria, who resembles five of her siblings with the genetic condition of albinism, is being cared for by the Smile of The Child Charity in Athens. She will remain there until state authorities decide her fate.
Bulgaria's State Agency for Child Protection (SACP) said that all possible measures would be taken to have Maria returned.
"Bulgarian authorities are ready to take full responsibility for Maria now that it is known she is the child of Bulgarian nationals," said SACP head Eva Zhecheva.
However, she was unlikely to rejoin her family in the near future – if at all – and would be cared for initially in a crisis centre or in foster care.
"Maria will remain there until a solution is found for her upbringing – a return to her biological family, a placement with relatives, or in a foster home or state institution," Mrs Zhecheva said.
"We are awaiting a decision from Greek authorities as to whether she will be transferred to Bulgaria."
Mrs Ruseva is under investigation for allegedly selling her child in Greece, where she and her husband were working as olive pickers, before returning to Bulgaria. (© Daily Telegraph, London)