After Greek police seized 6-year-old Maria from a Roma couple last week, Sasha Ruseva came forward saying that she was the biological mother. She faced criticism that she had sold the child.
Here are 5 Fast Facts about Sasha Ruseva and the controversy surrounding her.
1. Sasha Ruseva Left Maria in Greece Out of Desperation, Not for Self-Gain
After Greek police seized 6-year-old Maria, Sasha Ruseva, Bulgaria resident, claimed to be the mother. As Maria's picture was broadcast throughout the world. Sasha's 15-year-old son said, "[Sasha] became sad and started crying" when she saw Maria's picture broadcast on television Wednesday."
Sasha was criticized because it appeared that she may have sold the child into a life of begging, but this was not the case.
"They didn't sell [Maria]. They didn't have money to come back [to Bulgaria] and that's why they left her," Sasha's 15-year-old son said.
This was highly substantiated by Sasha's impoverished living conditions and incredibly modest Bulgaria home. She simply could not afford the documents to get her child, Maria, out of the country.
In the video below, Sasha explains what led to the situation:
2. A DNA Test Has Confirmed Sasha is the Mother of Maria
After Sasha Ruseva came to light alleging that she was the biological mother of Maria. A series of DNA tests were conducted, and she was confirmed to be the mother of the child. This was counter-intuitive because the child's white skin seemed to go against Sasha's claim.
This was eventually explained by the fact that her husband, Atana Rusev, has an Albino gene in his family.
3. Sasha Ruseva Shares Her Name With a Known Baby-Seller
Another confounding variable in the case is that a Grecian woman also by the name of Sasha Ruseva has been arrested twice for trying to sell babies.
This fits into a larger problematic stereotype for the Roma, also known as "Gypsies." Their largely impoverished Grecian communities, where the Roma live in prefabricated homes in a Greece devastated by economic problems, are now being stereotyped as potential incubators of child-trafficking slavery practices.
In defense of the Roma, the President of the local Gypsy Community said, ""We know these cases exist, but they involve Bulgarians, not Greeks like us. There are no transactions involving children here," according to Yahoo News.
4. The Controversy Surround Maria Plays Into Stereotypes Toward the Roma
Maria was found with a Roma couple which played into pre-existing stereotypes regarding the Roma people. Jennifer Illuzi, assistant profssor of history at Providence College, said in a recent NPR interview:
There is a long history of the attitude that gypsies are child stealers...in the 19th century, we see many stories of supposed kidnappings by, quote, unquote, "gypsies." And oftentimes, a few days later, a paper will publish a retraction, stating that, in fact, the child had run away from home, the child had wanted to go on an adventure and had left home, the child had been returned home safely."
She went on regarding the way this case was covered in the media saying, "It's incredibly problematic, and I do think that the tone with which this is being covered is going to put Roma at risk."
5. The Case Has Led to Attention Toward Other Similar Mysteries
As Rusheva's case became global news, a case emerged in Dublin, Ireland. Authorities ceased a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl from a Roma couple there.
Much in alignment with Illuzi's insights, the child was returned shortly thereafter. It was confirmed that the child did in fact belong to the Roma couple.
It remains to be seen how much this case will negatively impact perception and the practical reality of the Roma community, but certainly, this case has dredged up many old stereotypes that will continue to persist.
On the positive side, it does appear that Sasha Ruseva will get her daughter back.