Blonde Gypsy Sparks International Search

“Be good, or I’ll give you to the gypsies.” It’s a threat often repeated by many a Greek parent and grandmother to unruly children. The stereotype of the thieving gypsy, who will even steal your baby, is deeply ingrained in the psyche of the Greeks. When the story broke last week of a little blonde girl discovered in a Roma gypsy camp in Larissa, central Greece, many will have seen it as a validation of their beliefs.

Authorities have released images of the girl to Interpol in the hopes of locating her real parents after DNA tests proved that the couple taking care of her were not her parents. Roma gypsies face a lot of prejudice in Greece, and this along with the disturbing rise of the fascist party Golden Dawn, is likely to increase the hostility they face.

With their dark features, a blonde child stands out like a sore thumb amongst the Roma. When I was in hospital last year with my son, I kept seeing a young Roma mother on the next ward. She was about 16 years old, with blue eyes, light skin and blonde hair. A total anomaly sitting amongst the other Roma teenage mothers, but not an impossibility. You can find blonde hair, blue eyed Pakistanis too in the Northern regions, a result of the mixing of genes that took place in this area over centuries of various Caucasian invaders, including Alexander the Great’s army.

The little girl who answers to Maria, is said to be deeply upset at finding herself without the only people she considers her family, and it’s understandable. Whether she was kidnapped or handed over as the Roma claim, she has grown up in a bustling community and possibly a happy family. Now she finds herself alone with a bunch of strangers and the whole world peering in on her. If indeed she was kidnapped as a baby or toddler, somewhere her real parents have endured unimaginable agony, suspended in limbo wondering what became of their child. If they are eventually reunited, the road ahead is going to be very difficult for all parties involved.

The only positive to come out of this sad tale is that it has highlighted how alarmingly easy it is in Greece to register a child as your own. The Roma woman who claimed to be Maria’s mother had registered 6 children as her own in the space of 10 months, and no one noticed. Parents in Greece are not required to name their child on a birth certificate when they declare a birth. The child simply appears with their surname, with the first name given as “Unbaptised”.

Perhaps a change in the system is long overdue. If parents were obliged by law to name their child before leaving hospital, as in the US, suspicions would have been raised much sooner about a mother turning up to register phantom births so often. Although it must be noted that this wouldn’t necessarily work in communities where homebirth is the norm. 

“Be good, or I’ll give you to the gypsies.” It’s a threat often repeated by many a Greek parent and grandmother to unruly children. The stereotype of the thieving gypsy, who will even steal your baby, is deeply ingrained in the psyche of the Greeks. When the story broke last week of a little blonde girl discovered in a Roma gypsy camp in Larissa, central Greece, many will have seen it as a validation of their beliefs.

Authorities have released images of the girl to Interpol in the hopes of locating her real parents after DNA tests proved that the couple taking care of her were not her parents. Roma gypsies face a lot of prejudice in Greece, and this along with the disturbing rise of the fascist party Golden Dawn, is likely to increase the hostility they face.

With their dark features, a blonde child stands out like a sore thumb amongst the Roma. When I was in hospital last year with my son, I kept seeing a young Roma mother on the next ward. She was about 16 years old, with blue eyes, light skin and blonde hair. A total anomaly sitting amongst the other Roma teenage mothers, but not an impossibility. You can find blonde hair, blue eyed Pakistanis too in the Northern regions, a result of the mixing of genes that took place in this area over centuries of various Caucasian invaders, including Alexander the Great’s army.

The little girl who answers to Maria, is said to be deeply upset at finding herself without the only people she considers her family, and it’s understandable. Whether she was kidnapped or handed over as the Roma claim, she has grown up in a bustling community and possibly a happy family. Now she finds herself alone with a bunch of strangers and the whole world peering in on her. If indeed she was kidnapped as a baby or toddler, somewhere her real parents have endured unimaginable agony, suspended in limbo wondering what became of their child. If they are eventually reunited, the road ahead is going to be very difficult for all parties involved.

The only positive to come out of this sad tale is that it has highlighted how alarmingly easy it is in Greece to register a child as your own. The Roma woman who claimed to be Maria’s mother had registered 6 children as her own in the space of 10 months, and no one noticed. Parents in Greece are not required to name their child on a birth certificate when they declare a birth. The child simply appears with their surname, with the first name given as “Unbaptised”.

Perhaps a change in the system is long overdue. If parents were obliged by law to name their child before leaving hospital, as in the US, suspicions would have been raised much sooner about a mother turning up to register phantom births so often. Although it must be noted that this wouldn’t necessarily work in communities where homebirth is the norm. 

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