What would you do if you discovered the daughter you had raised for 12 years as your own actually ‘belonged’ to someone else?
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.
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.
But what happens when one of these children grows up and discovers the truth?
You can see more about DISAPPEARED here on Slideshare.
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Finally, here’s the postscript to the story about Irina and Anya: what would you do?