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20 May, 2009 20:23

Russian mother wins custody of daughter from Portugal

Six-year-old Aleksandra has finally arrived in Russia, her native land, though she has never been here before. On Monday, a Portuguese court returned the girl, living with a Portuguese couple, to her Russian mother.

The Russian woman, Natalya Zarubina, gave birth to Aleksandra in Portugal back in 2003. Soon afterwards she left her common-law husband, Ukrainian citizen Georgy Tsiklauri. She was living from hand to mouth back then and couldn’t hire a nurse for her child. So she asked a Portuguese couple to look after Aleksandra. The Portuguese couple signed all necessary documents, including guardianship, letting the child live with them, while Natalya continued to somehow arrange her life in Portugal.

The problem emerged when Natalya’s passport expired and she began facing deportation. But according to local laws, she could only be deported with her child.

“This all began because my daughter didn't have Russian citizenship. It's been horrendous – I've had to undergo medical and drug screening. Also, I know that this couple have been bad-mouthing to my daughter so she was a bit nervous at first about coming with me,” said Natalia.

Then ‘the Portuguese parents’ became angry and legal proceedings began. The Portuguese couple made an appeal, seeking to return the girl to their home, while Zarubina requested in court for her daughter to be returned to her. And on May 18, a Portuguese justice took Natalya’s side and let her return with her daughter to Russia.

”Theoretically, in cases such as this, anything is possible. When making their decision, the court must carefully weigh up all the variables. Adoption is always an option, but at the end of the day, a biological mother is the mother,”
says lawyer Anatoly Kucherena.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese side doesn’t plan to give up.

"We disagree with the court’s decision and we will keep fighting for the child," Joao Araujo, adoptive family’s attorney said.

Zarubina and her daughter, who speaks limited Russian, spent two days in the Russian embassy in Lisbon before returning to Moscow.

At first, Aleksandra couldn’t believe she had arrived in Russia. The child was surprised not to see snow in Moscow, as she had been told in Portugal. After a fuss around her arrival calmed down, the girl wondered where her beloved dog, Lyusya, was. But a few minutes later the problem was resolved – the dog was retrieved from the luggage – according to international laws, pets must be transported with the luggage.

Speaking about Aleksandra’s adopted parents, Natalya said she’s not opposed to them seeing her daughter as long as their meetings “are held in her presence.”

Natalya also said she and her daughter would later return to the central Russian Yaroslavl Region, where her second daughter and mother, Aleksandra’s grandmother, have been living.