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4 Jan, 2012 08:54

Identity crisis: Shock of teenagers raised by ‘wrong’ parents

Two teenage girls born at the same time and in the same ward in the Russian Urals are struggling to come to terms with the bombshell discovery that they were accidentally swapped at birth, and have been raised by the “wrong” parents.

It was in 1998 that Irina and Anya, born to Orthodox Christian and Muslim parents respectively, came into the world within 15 minutes of each other in the same hospital.The surnames of the two mothers were very similar – Andrikova and Andrushchak – and staff made a fatal mistake. The babies were mistakenly switched.The earth-shattering discovery was made when Yulia’s ex-husband said Irina looked nothing like him and claimed she was someone else’s child.He refused to pay maintenance, while Yulia, confident of her innocence, had the family take not one, but two DNA tests. The results showed the ex was not the father – but Yulia was not Irina’s mother either.“My first thought was that Irina must not find out, and the second was – where is my biological child?" recalls Yulia.With her lawyer and investigators by her side, Yulia discovered her biological child, Anya, was living on the other side of town with her father, Naymat.“They told me they had switched my child with another at the hospital.They said your biological child is with another family,” a shocked Naymat Iskanderov told RT.“It cannot be, she looks like her mother. I asked to see a photograph of the girl. They gave me a picture of her and I was in shock for about 40 minutes, my hands and legs were shaking.”

Two days later, Naymat reluctantly phoned Yulia. They met and decided to first introduce the girls to each other. After they became friends, the truth was revealed to each of them separately. Anya, 13, is Muslim and lives with her father, Naymat in the Chelyabinsk region of Kopeisk. On the other side of town, Irina, also 13, lives with her Russian Orthodox mother, Yulia. Irina and Anya are close friends and decided to remain with the parents who raised them.The inconvenience of living in different suburbs makes it hard for the families to meet often. But the social obstacles present a tougher barrier.Their separate cultures, beliefs and habits make understanding each other difficult.“They’re different – they pray, they don’t speak like us,” says Irina. “When they speak, I don’t understand what they’re saying. What if they’re saying something about me?” she worries.But despite the religious and cultural differences, they remain friends, sharing the same birthday and ties that bind them deeper than what lies on the surface.