MOSCOW - Two Russian families on Monday won a $100,000-compensation each from a maternity home that accidentally switched their 12-year old daughters at birth, and said they could use the money to house the girls next to each other.
The story has captivated Russia ever since the families learned recently about the switch after the former husband of Yuliya Belyayeva refused to support their daughter, Irina, because she didn't look like him.
A DNA test revealed that neither of them were Irina's parent. An official investigation tracked down Irina's biological father, Naimat Iskanderov, who had been raising Belyayeva's own child, Anna.
Yulia laughed with joy after the judge delivered the verdict in a courtroom in Kopeisk in Russia's Ural Mountains, but Iskanderov remained stone-faced.
In the footage broadcast on Russia's NTV television, Belyayeva caressed her biological daughter, Anna, while Irina, whom she raised, sat stern-faced on a sofa, here eyes down. “She feels jealous,” Belyayeva said.
It was not clear whether Belyayeva had married again after separating from her husband. Iskanderov parted with his wife when Anna was five but later married again, according to the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Anna strongly resembled her biological mother, Belyayeva, while dark-haired and dark-eyed Irina looked like her ethnic Tajik father, Iskanderov.
Despite the verdict, Belyayeva said she will still struggle to overcome the feeling of shock over the inadvertent swap.
“The money just can't ease the pain,” Yuliya Belyayeva said. “All the money in the world isn't worth a child's look at mother ... There are moments when I think it would have been better if I hadn't known anything about that.”
Russian television reports said the girls don't want to leave the parents who raised them, so the families are thinking of using the compensation money, which is huge by Russian standards, to get houses close to each other or even share a home.
“I would like us to share a house so that we don't worry about her daughter coming to me and the other way round,” Irina's biological father, Naimat Iskanderov said.
Belyayeva said she would prefer separate houses nearby, so that “we see our children growing up and take part in their education.”