Roma girl Maria
Sasha Ruseva, a 38-year-old Roma woman, with one of her children (courtesy of the BBC)

Bulgarian police have quizzed a Roma woman who authorities believe to be the biological mother of Maria, the mystery blonde girl discovered living with an unrelated couple in a Roma camp in Greece.

The 38-year-old woman, identified as Sasha Ruseva, told Bulgarian media that she gave up one of her children years ago because of money problems.

Ruseva said that she gave birth to a baby girl in central Greece a few years ago but could not provide for her. "I gave my child away because we were hungry," Ruseva said.

A woman she was working with offered to take care of Maria and Ruseva accepted.

"[She told me]: 'Give me this child, I will take care of it. You can come and take it back anytime you want'," Ruseva claimed.

"I intended to go back and take my child home, but meanwhile I gave birth to two more kids so I was not able to go back."

Ruseva maintained that she did not receive money for the child and said had willingly undergone a DNA test and would be happy to take Maria back. The Bulgarian interior ministry confirmed that DNA samples were taken.

Greek media reported that Maria was born in 2009 in Lamia, not far from where she was found.

Ruseva was interviewed at her home in Nikolaevo where she lives with her husband Atanas Rusev and eight children. Some of the children bear a strong resemblance to Maria.

One child said Ruseva recognised Maria when a picture of her was broadcast on television.

Maria was found living in a Roma camp near Farsala, central Greece, by police searching the settlement for drugs and weapons.

Investigators became suspicious when they noticed the blonde child who looked nothing like the couple who claimed to be her parents.

The two, identified as Christos Salis, 39 and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, were arrested and charged with abduction. DNA tests revealed that Maria was not their natural daughter and a worldwide hunt for the natural parents was launched by Interpol.

The blonde girl, who speaks only Roma but appears to understand Greek, is in the care of The Smile of the Child charity.

Some of Sasha Ruseva’s children at their home in Bulgaria (Courtesy of BTV)
Roma Greece Maria
A Roma couple charged with abduction of Maria (Greek police)