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It was a coincidence in TikTok that reunited twins separated 19 years ago, who were among 120,000 children stolen in Georgia.

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While browsing the TikTok app in 2022, Georgian student Elin Disadze found the profile of a girl who looked incredibly similar to her, Anna Panchulidze.

After months of chatting and friendship, both girls learned that they had been adopted and decided last year to take a DNA test to prove that they were identical twins.

Far from being an innocent case of separation at birth, they are among tens of thousands of Georgian children sold in a decades-long child trafficking scandal.

The journalists discovered that illegal adoptions occurred over a period of more than 50 years, and were coordinated by a network of maternity hospitals, nurseries and adoption agencies, which colluded in taking children from their parents, falsifying birth records, and handing them over to new families in exchange for money.

Anna, a student studying English at the university, told AFP: “My childhood was happy, but now my entire past has become a deception.” She added: "I had difficulty absorbing the information and accepting the new reality. The people who raised me for 18 years are not my parents. But I do not feel any anger at all. I just feel very grateful to the people who raised me, and joy in finding my own flesh and blood."

For her part, Elaine, who studies psychology, said: “We became friends without suspecting that we might be sisters, but we felt a special bond between us.”

Elaine and Anna's testing was arranged with the help of Georgian journalist Tamuna Musiridze, who runs a Facebook group dedicated to returning children stolen from their parents. It has more than 200,000 members, including mothers who were told by hospital staff that their babies died shortly after birth, only to discover years later that they may still be alive.

Musiredze founded the group in 2021, in an attempt to find her family after learning that she was adopted. She soon discovered the wholesale operation of children.

It says it has evidence that at least 120,000 children were “stolen and sold” between 1950 and 2006, when anti-human trafficking measures taken by President Mikheil Saakashvili eventually led to the plan being scrapped.

In Georgia, new parents pay the equivalent of several months' salary to arrange the adoption process, while children who are smuggled abroad are sold for up to $30,000, according to Musiridze.

Elaine's adoptive mother, Leah Korkutadze, and her husband decided to adopt after learning that they were unable to have children after a year of marriage.

But adopting from an orphanage seemed almost impossible due to incredibly long waiting lists. In 2005, an acquaintance told her about a six-month-old baby available for adoption from a local hospital for a fee.

Korkutadze said she "realized that this was my chance", and agreed that "they brought Elaine straight to my house", never suspecting "anything illegal".

"It took months of excruciating bureaucratic delay to formalize the adoption through the court," she said.

Source News : published on 6-7-2024


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