A 20-year-old beauty queen who was kidnapped and sold to gypsies in exchange for a pair of gold earrings as a young child has been reunited with her family – sixteen years later.
Olga Romanovich was just four years old when she cruelly snatched from her mother Tamara by a group of gypsies.
The group abducted the young girl after persuading her mother, who had moved from Belarus to Moldova after breaking up with her husband, to go into a shop and buy a packet of cigarettes.
Olga Romanovich, 20, was abducted from her mother Tamara in Moldova when she was just four years old but has now been reunited with her birth family in Belarus 16 years on
The young girl was then sold on to another gypsy in the town of Soroki, near the Ukrainian border, in exchange for a pair of gold earrings.
Now Miss Romanovich – whose name was changed to Maria Preyda by her adopted family – has been reunited with her birth family after Interpol helped her track them down.
The astonishing case will give hope to parents whose children have disappeared, while also raising concern about how many others might have been traded by gypsies.
Speaking after the reunion, she told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper: ‘I was loved in that gypsy family, they raised me as well as they could.
‘Even more in fact. But that feeling comes when you realise that it’s not your life. You’re not one of them like everybody else. You’re different.’
Miss Romanovich, who won a beauty contest before she returned to Belarus, said she was given a happy, normal childhood by her adopted family. She was mainly brought up by her adopted grandmother.
Miss Romanovich was sold to gypsies in exchange for a pair of gold earrings when she was just four years old, pictured left, but went on to be ‘loved’ by the gypsy family and was raised as a ‘normal kid’, right
She told the paper: ‘I got a new name – Maria, which I could not get used to, because I was actually called Olga.
‘And I had another surname – Preyda. My grandmother’s son, Igor Preyda adopted me. My grandmother was a second mother to me. I grew up as a normal kid.’
But she said there was always a part of her which felt ‘tormented’ about wanting to find her birth family.
She said: ‘Over time, I learned the gypsy language and gradually Moldovan. I went to a Russian langauge school, entered college, studied as a cook and hairdresser.
‘Yes, you live by their customs, talking, behaving. But always I was asking one question: “Who am I? Where I come from? How did I come here?”
Speaking after her reunion, Miss Romanovich, pictured here with her adopted family, said she was raised as well as she could have been, but still always wanted to know the truth about where she came from
‘These questions always tormented and tortured me. I wanted to know the truth. Who were my parents, even if they sold me. I would like to know who I am, what is the blood flowing in me.
‘I never talked about it with anyone, it was all hidden inside me. All my life I wanted to know my parents and their relatives.’
It was only when her grandmother fell ill before her death at age 73 that Miss Romanovich decided to track down her parents, spurred on by her grandmother.
She said: ‘She told me: “Find your relatives! If I knew anything about your real mother, I would have told you”.’
Before being reunited with her birth mother, who is ill, the 20-year-old took part in a beauty contest in Moldova and won
The young woman used a psychologist to get in touch with police colonel Valery Rogozhine who contacted Interpol.
Now DNA testing has proved that Maria Preyda is in fact Olga Romanovich. She is living with an aunt in Minsk and has been accepted back into her real family.
Speaking about meeting her mother, she said: ‘I cried. My mother is very ill. She doesn’t live, she just exists. She lives in her own corner of the world, and I do not want to hurt her.
‘I do not resent what happened. She also experienced a lot of things. I cannot judge her. She is not to blame for what happened, it was just fate.’
The young woman is also looking forward to meeting her three blood brothers.
After Miss Romanovich’s kidnapping, her mother had three more children but eventually was unable to care for them.
They were adopted by a wealthy couple – who also demanded the police investigate Miss Romanovich’s disappearance – but no progress was made.
At the time of her kidnapping, Miss Romanovich’s mother also reported her daughter missing to police in Minsk, but there was no investigation.
Romanovich said: ‘I have been accepted back here very well.’
She said she is determined to start studying to become a doctor.