Bulgaria takes seven of Roma girl's brothers and sisters into care

Wed Oct 30, 2013 3:14pm EDT
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SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian authorities said on Wednesday they would take into care most of the brothers and sisters of Maria, the four-year-old whose discovery in neighboring Greece captured global attention.

DNA tests have confirmed that Sasha Ruseva, 35, is the biological mother of Maria, whose blue eyes and blonde hair aroused the suspicions of Greek police when they raided a Roma camp this month.

Ruseva and her husband, both Bulgarian Roma, have nine other children aged between 2 and 20 and live in deep poverty, occupying one room in a crumbling house in the town of Nikolaevo, 280 km (170 miles) east of Sofia.

TV footage that showed the children in shabby clothes sleeping on a mud floor and speaking little Bulgarian caused public outrage.

"We decided to accommodate four of the kids with foster families," Diana Kaneva, head of the agency for social assistance in the area, told Reuters on Wednesday.

"Two children will be sent to a state institution and one will be placed with relatives of the family," she said, adding that the measures were temporary and contacts between children and their parents would be encouraged by the social workers.

Two other children are over 18 and not subject to state protection.

Maria, dubbed "the blonde angel" by Greek media, is now in the care of the Athens-based charity Smile of the Child.

On Tuesday, Bulgarian authorities said they would take steps to bring her back to the Balkan country.   Continued...

Bulgarian Roma Sasha Ruseva (L), 35, holds her daughter next to her husband Atanas, 37, in front of their house in the town of Nikolaevo, some 280km (173miles) east of Sofia October 24, 2013. REUTERS/Ivan Ianev/BGNES