DNA tests have confirmed that a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl named “Maria” found living with a Roma family in Greece is the child of Bulgarian couple Sasha Ruseva and Atanas Rusev, the BBC reports.
Crucially, the Bulgarian couple are Roma themselves.
This is grim twist in an already dark tale. The discovery of Maria earlier this month prompted a Europe-wide freak-out about the possibility that Roma — gypsy communities who descended from Indian nomads and are some of the continent’s most persecuted minorities — were involved in the kidnapping and trafficking of children. How could a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes end up in a community that usually features dark complexions?
People assumed the worst. A spokesperson for the family of missing child Madeleine McCann told the Daily Mirror that it gave the family “great hope that Madeleine could be found alive,” and the Daily Mail accompanied a story on “Maria” with a section about “How Roma gangs ‘traffic children across Europe to steal.'” In Ireland, another blonde child was removed from a Roma family, even though the child had a birth certificate and a passport (that girl was later returned when DNA testing found that she was in fact their child).
Exactly how Maria came to be in Greece remains murky. Her Bulgarian mother has said that she was left in the country as a baby as they could not afford to bring her when they returned to Bulgaria. However, the Daily Mail reported that a woman with her same name was arrested twice for allegedly selling babies in Greece. Whatever the reason, the rush to assume that the only way a Roma family could have a blonde child is abduction and trafficking is scary.
Scarier still is that this is just one example of a wider trend. Anti-Roma persecution has existed for centuries, and economic troubles in the past few years seem to have led to a resurgence. In Greece, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn have targeted Roma immigrants, and political parties such as Hungary’s Jobbik, the Czech Republic’s Workers’ Party of Social Justice and Bulgaria’s Ataka support anti-Roma policies.
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