Award Winner's Serial
News / Serbia 2014
According to the president of the Union, Vladimir Cicarevic, they are still in the documentation collecting phase, hoping that they will be ready to take DNA samples in two weeks time.
If they succeed and the DNA samples match, it will be the 43d child case for which they have proof that the baby was sold after birth.
The Union has been conducting a parallel investigation and for the past year and a half, has managed to track down dozens of youngsters. The majority was, according to Cicarevic, found in Serbia – some of them are mature people while others are still minors – but their traces also led them to some European countries and even Canada.
“We visited the City Hall, Registry Office, maternity hospital, neonatology, etc. in Pozarevac, together with parents looking for their daughter. There is reasonable suspicion that certain persons illegally adopted the child,” said Cicarevic and explained what their investigation consisted of. They mainly find the children through medical and other documentation, following leads from mothers’ protocols and so on, he said.
“A child can not get out of the hospital unless the papers are ‘washed’ through a third woman. We compare the lists of who left the hospital on the day when the baby allegedly died. By slowly narrowing the list of ‘suspects’, at the end, there is always one woman who doesn’t have proper documentation about her pregnancy. There are no papers proving that she was pregnant, but she was able to leave the maternity ward of the hospital with a baby”, stated the Union president.
A particular problem are alleged acceptances of mothers to give their children up for adoption. They claim that a number of mothers were given the drug “Formidal” to put them to sleep. Side effects of the medication, when used in therapy, are apathy, depression and disinterest. A mother would sign whatever she was given without even remembering of having done so. She would be told that her baby died, and if she decides to search for it one day, there would be a paper that she allegedly willingly signed to give her baby away.
The manual for “Formidal” reads that the medication is used the treatment of insomnia, but can also be used before surgery in order for the patient to become sleepy and relaxed. After stopping its usage, there are possible side effects, such as headache, extreme anxiety, tension, discomfort, confusion and irritability.
The Union also came up with information through insiders within Centers for Social Welfare. They find it suspicious for an adopter to skip ahead 20 places on the waiting list and suddenly be in cue to adopt a baby. The majority of children were found through their registration number and DNA analysis.
“First we check all paperwork, then our staff or detectives from a private agency conduct a field investigation. When they find the person suspected to have been stolen as a baby, we search for any kind of DNA material – gum, cigarette, anything. We then send DNA samples of the mother and the child to laboratories in Vienna or Switzerland. Only one sample so far did not match, while 42 did. The rest of them are still in the examination phase,” explained Cicarevic.
DNA analysis, which costs between 300 and 400 euros, is financed by parents. Parents whose children are found while still minors, they do not make contact with them right away. For the child, this is a big shock and can create incurable traumas. Parents do not want that. They don’t want to spoil their childhood and future, but wait for the child to mature and make contact in a roundabout way… However, there are direct meetings, he said.
“I was present in about ten such meetings and it was tense, charged with energy, mixed with sorrow and joy. However neither of the children went to live with their biological parents. Most of them didn’t even want to believe they were kidnapped and adopted.”
There were some real dramas, adopters who were pointing guns at members of the Union and biological parents, then a fight at the Registration Service, a fight between parents and adopters. Some adopters even beat the other child of parents who found their stolen baby as a form of threat.
“Every three hours I call my associates for security reasons. I don’t go anywhere alone. Threats became part of my daily routine”, says the president of Union of Parents of Missing Babies.
“In the last four decades, 10.000 newborns went missing in Serbia.” The Union pressed approximately 3,000 charges, but, they say, they Prosecutor’s Office didn’t initiate any proceedings, nor give a warrant for DNA analysis. They do not believe anything will change after December 9th, when the extended deadline for Serbia, according to the verdict of the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, to allow parents to find out the truth, will expire.
Branka Stamenkovic, from the Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office claims that remarks about the Prosecutor’s Office are false: “From day one, when the information was received and investigation launched regarding suspicion of crime where there had been a change in status of newborn children, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has continuously been working in accordance with the Law in order to reveal the truth behind each of these cases. Measures include collecting information and available data from all relevant state institutions and organs, as well as individuals.”
Stamenkovic points out that data received from all relevant prosecutors shows that there have been some pre-trial or trial proceedings. Grana Stefan from Nis and Milijana Cumic from Belgrade claim that they found their children.
Grana Stefan, one of the many mothers who don’t believe in the official version about the death of their babies, claims that she found a boy for whom she believes is her son, who allegedly died just after birth in 1987 in the Nis maternity hospital.
For years, she has discreetly observed a young man in Nis, for whom she says looks identical to his twin sister, her daughter Marija.
“My heart tells me to approach him, but my mind prevails”, says Grana. “I look at him, hesitate, my soul hurts, I cry, but I mustn’t approach him. And I see my child there”. Grana brought a boy and a girl into this world, a pair of monozygotic twins. Her labour was assisted by a Palestinian doctor, Valid Masad, and both of the babies were fine, they both cried out once born. However, she was later told that the male twin had died. She claims that during her discharge from the hospital, she was given discharge papers indicating that her child was male. She says that once they noticed the baby’s gender, they crossed it out and marked it as female. This raised her initial suspicion that her son had not died.
“Even more awkward is that the papers states that I was discharged from the hospital on June 19th 1987 and the child on June 19th 1988,” said Grana. “Also, the child’s release papers stated that the birth date was May 11th 1988 instead of 1987. They had obviously mixed up the release papers, and had given my girl’ papers to the people who took the boy. They wanted the papers to show that he was born a year later”. In 2005, Grana Stefan, together with 12 other parents, officially requested an answer on whether there had been a funeral for the babies who allegedly died in the hospital. The answer was that there had been a children’s funeral.
The case of Milijana Cumic from Belgrade is considered the strongest and the most argumentative in the whole affair of missing babies. She conducted the whole investigation by herself, collected evidence and found her child. However, the court doesn’t allow for a DNA analysis, not even after the collection of all the paperwork.
Milijana was told that her child was still born on December 21th 1978. She claims that her baby was proclaimed dead and switched with another in the maternity ward of the City Hospital in Belgrade.
After several years of investigation, Miljana learned that two more women gave birth on the same day at the City Hospital – Naila and Ruzica.
“The tree of us gave birth to two girls and a defective child which, as it later turned out, died,” said Miljana. “Naila gave birth to the defect child, so they gave her Ruzica’s baby, and Ruzica got mine.”
In 2002, Miljana found her baby girl Ana in a village near Obrenovac.
“She waited for me at the gate, not knowing who I am,” said Cumic. “My heart pounded. She looked like me at her age. I represented myself as aunt Miljana. Her “parents” also gave me a warm welcome. I told them everything. At one point, Ana said: “I was born with the same weight as your daughter”.
Ana visited the Cumic family in Belgrade. However, the court still does not allow for a DNA analysis to take place.