What would you do if you discovered the daughter you had raised for 12 years as your own actually ‘belonged’ to someone else?

photograph: Zivya

photograph: Zivya

Irina Belyaeva and Anya Iskanderova were born just 15 minutes apart at a maternity hospital in Kopeisk in the Urals in Russia in 1999; somehow a maternity nurse mixed up their name tags and the infants went home with the wrong families.

The mistake only came to light when Irina’s mother, Yuliya, separated from her husband; he refused to pay child support, claiming their child looked nothing like him. DNA’s tests proved that he was right; Irina wasn’t his daughter. But she wasn’t Yuliya’s either.

Yuliya photocopied the DNA test results and went to the local prosecutor’s office where she lodged an official complaint against the local maternity hospital. She then took the laboratory results to the local police who tracked down their biological daughter Anya in a village just half an hour away – where she was being raised by Irina’s father.

Anya was blonde and blue eyed and looked like Yuliya; Irina was olive-skinned and dark haired like her Tajik father.

source: MultipleParent

source: MultipleParent

But when the truth came out neither girl showed any desire to return to her biological parents. They have, however, become close friends with each other.

It’s the parents who have struggled most to make sense of this startling revelation. Irina pleaded with Yuliya: ‘Mum, please don’t give me away!’

And Naimat, a Tajik Muslim, is worried that Anya, the daughter he has raised, will one day start drinking and stop praying; Anya’s biological parents are Orthodox Russian Christians.

Both families worked together to take the claim against the hospital to court; but it appears that untangling the legal claims will be much simpler than unraveling their mixed emotions about finding their biological children.

The case raises fascinating questions about identity. Anya should be a Christian yet she has grown up a Muslim; so is all faith then just an accident of birth?

Are our parents the stuff of DNA – or the people who care for us and love us and help us grow, no matter the bloodline?

See more of this story in the video at the end of the post.

The case also fascinated me because the idea of children being raised thinking that their parents are their own flesh and blood – and then discovering a very different truth – is the basis of my novel DISAPPEARED.

#1The story begins in the Dirty War in Argentine during the seventies when members of the death squads killed opponents of the hard line junta – but then raised their children as their own.

But what happens when one of these children grows up and discovers the truth?

You can see more about DISAPPEARED here on Slideshare. 

And if you’d like the latest news about more of my upcoming releases sign up for my NEWSLETTER here!!!

Finally, here’s the postscript to the story about Irina and Anya: what would you do?


About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
This entry was posted in THRILLERS and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. That is such a fascinating story. It would be so hard to discover that truth after being the parent to a child for so many years. I wonder how often this happens. I bet more than we know. Thanks for sharing their story.

    I also wanted to wish you a happy new year, Colin. I haven’t been commenting as much. A lot of not so great stuff going on in my personal life so I’m left with being at a loss for words lately. I do read and enjoy your posts, even if I don’t leave a comment.

  2. CC MacKenzie says:

    Sounds a fantastic premise for a story to me, Colin. Good Luck!

  3. corajramos says:

    How heartbreaking. But it sounds like both parents are making the best of the situation. What a story and what questions it raises about paternity, bonding and doing what is right vs. religious values. Sounds like your book touches on these things. It will be interesting so see how you handle it. Glad you posted it.

    • It’s interesting, isn’t it? People tend to defend their religion, for instance, as if it’s the only right way and yet in this instance it was clearly just an accident of birth. And the two children clearly made their decision – they didn’t want to be with their biological parents, but the parent(s) they bonded with. It’s a story that has many aspects.

  4. filbio says:

    I am sure this happens many times in these countries where files and documents are not kept properly. It is very thought provoking, especially when religion is involved. Should make a great premise for a book.

  5. What a fascinating story, Colin. I can’t wait to read and support it. Best of luck!

    PS Your post titles rock. They nab my attention every time. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s