TWO women have spoken of their heartbreak after it was revealed they were swapped at birth by bungling doctors – and they now mourn the life that was "stolen" from them.
Alyona Romanova and Gulsina Kudryakova found 38 years after they had both been born that they had been lead the wrong lives and had been raised by the wrong parents.
Their mothers, Gulsina's Valentina Baulina, 78, and Alyona's Vasilya Baimurzina, 67, has been taunted by rumours in their Russian villages that their children were not theirs – as their distinct appearances did not match their families.
But the girls had secretly been swapped at a Soviet maternity hospital in 1982, after muddled medics attached the wrong tags to the wrong newborns.
Alyona's distinct features, similar to many many people in the mountainous Siberian republic of Tuva which borders Mongolia, saw her stick out from her light-featured family.
She told of the agony suffered by the mother who raised her, facing endless taunts – including from her own husband – that she had slept around.
Meanwhile, Gulsina was one of the only members of her dark-haired clan that had fair hair – and feels bereft for the life that was "stolen" from her.
Alyona, who runs her own shop, was raised by Valentina, who was the biological mother of Gulsina, who was brought upby Vasilya Baimurzina.
But despite finally finding out the truth – the women long for the relationship with their mothers that they never had, with Alyona saying she feels like a "stranger".
Gulsina, a school cleaner, told The Sun Online, “I am living a life that is not quite mine.
“If I lived normally, well, as it should have been, my life would have been different.
“I thought that Vasilya was my mother. I was convinced that she was my mother.
I would have wanted to live like all normal people live. I would want for this swap not to have happened
“Of course. I would have wanted to live like all normal people live. I would want for this swap not to have happened.”
In recent years Russia has seen a shocking number of swapped babies that have only come to light decades later, plunging those involved into untold agony.
“When I was around 13, my father was in hospital,” Alyona explained.
“He was told that there was a woman in Pokrovka village and that they had a girl of my age who resembled him.
“My father rang my mother, told her this, and my mum took a photo of me to the hospital and showed it to the people who had told my dad about a girl resembling him.”
The inquisitive teenager took it upon herself to try and track down the family in the village of Pokrovka.
But her hopes of a happy reunion were dashed: as the door was shut in her face by – as we now know – her own biological mum.
“When I came to my mother for the first time, her family did not accept me, they kicked me out," she told The Sun Online.
“She started yelling, she did not believe me, and was nervous. Vasilya was saying it was all lies, she did not believe in it.”
Still, her and Gulsina vaguely stayed in touch – connecting with each other on social media – but barely communicating.
And years later, the women bumped into each other in Kyzyl, a city close to both of their villages – before striking up a friendship.
“We started communicating with each other as families. I was introduced to my biological father, and other relatives, they accepted me," Alyona said.
“It was obvious – I looked like them. At that moment I was no longer afraid.
“It hurts me that I did not live my life with them, that I did not know them as a family. I well up with tears that so much time has passed.”
Her biological mother, Vasilya, decided to squash the doubt and start to clear the legal hurdles by contacting a DNA show on Russia's NTV channel.
"When I heard the results of the test, I felt huge relief, I burst into tears," Alyona said.
But despite the results allowing the women to finally make sense of their upbringings, it wasn't without obstacles.
Alyona's non-biological parents took it "very hard", while she herself had to be prescribed medication to help her cope.
She said: “I am happy that I could prove the truth. There was so much pain, and I wanted the whole world to know about it.
“It is hard for me to get over it. Now I find that my biological mum is a stranger for me.
“I look at her, she is my mum but she is not at the same time, I don't know how to explain it to you."
Both mums had been suspicious of a mistake even before leaving the maternity hospital back in Soviet times when sickly Leonid Brezhnev was staggering to the end of his stagnant Kremlin rule.
Now, coming to terms with the nightmare is proving desperately and heartbreakingly hard for both mothers and daughters.
Valentina acknowledged she could never be as close to her blood daughter.
“They both are my daughters,” she said. “Of course, Alyona is closer to me because I raised her.
“As the saying goes, the mother is not the one who gave birth, but the one who raised.”
The other mum Vasilya admitted the DNA result had been “very unexpected” despite all the speculation and accusations over the years.
“I did not believe it until the very end”, she said.
A lawyer representing the victims – and seeking compensation for them in the Russian courts – said the publicity has deepened the pain.
The families have now received an apology from the hospital, but it has a sting in the tail.
Chief doctor at Kizilsky maternity hospital, Alla Vasilyeva, claimed: "It is very difficult to swap children at the maternity hospital. Not just difficult, it is impossible.”
She gave an elaborate explanation of how tags on the babies could not be confused – yet it happened – but none of the medical staff involved remain at the hospital, or are even alive still.
The doctor said: “It is a disgrace if this really happened. These are human lives and destinies."
She ruled out “malicious intent” saying it must have been an accident.
But despite her acknowledgement of the appalling mix-up, Dr Vasilyeva does not want to fork out for the £58,000 in compensation the women are seeking.
The families had their first court hearing on April 27, where they were reportedly ordered to take another DNA test.
Their next hearing is scheduled for May 18.
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