The green-eyed girl known as Maria – or the “blonde angel,” as Greek media called her – is the biological daughter of a Roma couple from Bulgaria, DNA tests revealed on Friday.
The positive test ended speculation that a Greek couple had abducted the four-year-old child, but also proved racial profiling and persecution against Roma people continues across Europe, advocates said.
“DNA analysis proved that Sasha Ruseva is the biological mother of the girl named Maria,” Interior Ministry Chief Commissioner Svetlozar Lazarov told reporters Friday. “It also showed Atanas Rusev as the biological father.”
Greek police intervened earlier this week to investigate if the fair-haired Maria had been abducted by the Greek Roma couple. The couple pointed authorities toward Ruseva, who claimed she left Maria with them because she couldn’t care for her.
Ruseva said she worked as an olive picker in Greece when Maria was born, and that she didn’t sell the child. DNA evidence bore that statement to be true.
“We gave the child for free,” Ruseva told media that crowded the squalid Bulgarian camp where she lives with her nine children. “I did not take any money. I had nothing to feed her.”
Authorities said they would investigate if the biological parents should be charged with selling their daughter.
According to Agence France-Presse, five of Ruseva’s nine children are also fair skinned.
The case sparked international interest, and led to another investigation in Ireland where authorities removed two blonde children from their Roma families.
The children have since been returned to their homes, after DNA tests proved links to their families.
The European Roma Rights Centre issued a statement condemning the recent removals.
The center called for a “proportionate, responsible approach to child protection based on facts and evidence, not on racial profiling.”
Between 10 million and 12 million Roma live across Europe, most in poverty.
“Roma have been unfairly demonized and scapegoated for centuries,” the ERRC said. “We call on all national authorities to act in line with their own child protection procedures, and to show responsibility and restraint.”
This week’s events were just the latest in a string of incidents involving the treatment of Roma people in Europe.
“Roma increasingly are becoming the scapegoats for wider societal ills,” Bernard Rorke, advocacy director for Open Society Foundation’s Roma Initiatives Office, told GlobalPost last month.
More from GlobalPost: Once again, the Roma have become everyone’s favorite scapegoat