Stoyan Nenov / Reuters
Sasha Ruseva may be the biological mother of the blond girl known as "Maria" who was found in Greek Roma camp last week.
NIKOLAEVO, Bulgaria — The family of a Bulgarian couple whose DNA matched with the mystery girl known as “Maria” on Friday, told NBC News they were “happy” she had been identified and they hoped she would be home soon.
"I'm happy and I hope that the kid will come home, but nobody knows when," Angel Rusev, the girl’s uncle said. "We're going to take care of her and all the other kids."
DNA samples taken from his brother Atanas Rusev, 36, and the girl’s mother Sasha Ruseva, 35, was shown to match with the little girl.
“Analysis proved that Sasha Ruseva is the biological mother of the girl named Maria," Bulgarian Interior Ministry Chief Commissioner, Svetlozar Lazarov told reporters. "It also showed Atanas Rusev as the biological father.”
He added that pretrial proceedings had been initiated to discover whether the mother had given her consent for her daughter to be sold abroad.
Back in Greece, a spokesman for the Smile of a Child Charity that is looking after Maria, told NBC News that the youngster was doing “very well” as she had been discharged from hospital and was now living in one of their homes.
“She was released yesterday from the hospital and she was transferred to one of our homes," said Panagiotis Pardalis. "Our people and social workers are taking care of her.”
He added that charity only had temporary custody of the girl and the decision about her future would be made later by a Greek court.
“Our role is to take care of Maria according to the order of the prosecutor. The decision about what happens to her is made by the court,” he said.
In an earlier interview with NBC News, Maria’s great-grandmother Zineb Kasimova, told NBC News that Ruseva regretted leaving the girl in Greece.
"They left the kid because they have no money at all," the family matriarch who has about 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, said. "When the mother saw the child on TV, she went to the neighbors and told them, 'I was a fool to leave the kid there'.'"
Speaking at her mud-floored dwelling, Kasimova added: "If she doesn't take her home, then I will go there and I will take her home because I'm her great-grandmother."
Ivan Yanev / EPA
Some of Sasha and Atanas Ruseva's children pose for photographers on Friday. Officials are investigating whether they are Maria's brothers and sisters.
Ruseva herself told Bulgarian TV on Thursday that she had once left a baby behind in Greece after working there.
"I didn't take any money," Ruseva said. "I just didn't have enough money to feed her. 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.”
Bulgarian police later questioned Ruseva and her husband whose DNA was later shown to match with samples taken by the Greek police from the little girl.
"The prosecutors' office has opened a pre-trial investigation against [Sasha Ruseva] for agreeing to sell her child on an undisclosed date in 2009 in Greece," the regional prosecutor's office in the southern town of Kazanlak said in a statement. "The probe is opened following checks linked to the female child with the name Maria in Greece."
Ruseva and her husband both vanished after being interviewed by investigators, police told NBC News on Friday.
From their small shacks next to an unpaved road in Nikolaevo, neighbors told NBC News that the couple have nine children -- including four who are blond and fair-skinned like Maria.
She was found living with Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, last week in a Roma settlement near Farsala, Greece.
They have been charged with abduction and procuring false documents. Magistrates ordered that Salis and Dimopoulou be held in custody until they face trial.
Greek Police via Reuters
Eleftheria Dimolpoulou, left, and Christos Salis, right, are seen with Maria. Officers told Reuters the couple gave at least five conflicting accounts of how the child ended up with them, including that she was found outside a supermarket.
Their lawyer Marietta Palavra told NBC News earlier this week that Maria's real mother is a Bulgarian Roma prostitute who was looking for a home for the unwanted baby among local Roma families in Greece.
Meanwhile, Greek police arrested a couple on Wednesday for buying a baby Roma girl from her mother for 4,000 euros ($5,500) in March because they could not have children of their own.
"The baby has been with them since then while they sought ways to legalize it," police said.
They were due to appear before a prosecutor on Friday.
NBC News' Tomislav Mihailov and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Henry Austin reported from London.
First published October 26 2013, 6:11 AM