Who is Maria?

Maria, left, and a computer-generated image of what abducted Kansas City baby Lisa Irwin might look like today.

Maria, left, and a computer-generated image of what abducted Kansas City baby Lisa Irwin might look like today.  Is Maria the Irwin’s baby?

She has the most haunted, hopeless, miserable eyes of any child I’ve ever seen, heart-stoppingly deadened eyes, ones that make you wonder if her little spirit is already irreparably broken.  They’re the eyes of a captive.  Yet she’s a baby.  The authorities in Greece, where she was found, think she’s only four or five years old.

Her name is Maria, but beyond that, her actual identity is not known.  She was found living with a Romany couple in Greece who are clearly not the little blonde waif’s parents.  They claim they adopted her from a Bulgarian mother, but they’ve changed their story several times already, and it’s not holding up.  The little girl’s birth certificate is bogus and was entered into the official record in Greece years after the fact, which is highly suspicious.  The “parents” have got fourteen children, and quite a few of them aren’t their own.  There’s a boy in the same Gypsy camp who might be the missing child Ben Needham from the UK.  It’s believed the “parents” of this little tyke Maria might be child traffickers.  With so many children in their unofficial custody, I’d say that assessment is highly likely.

An American family in Kansas City is hoping against hope that Maria is their abducted daughter.  I remember the case well.  Lisa Irwin was abducted from her bedroom a few years ago; I shared status updates about her on Facebook when a Midwestern friend had posted the alerts.  Lisa Irwin was not found.  The case went immediately cold.  For the sake of the parents, I’m hoping that Maria is Lisa.  I think that people of goodwill everywhere are hoping she’s Lisa.

But if she’s Lisa, what the hell is going on that she was stolen from her home in Kansas City and wound up living with those ghastly-looking behemoths in Greece?  I get bad vibes just looking at the photos of those people.   If she’s Lisa, how did they get her out of the country?  How was she transported across state lines and international boundaries?  How did she land in a Gypsy camp – an honest-to-goodness Gypsy camp, like the stuff of the worst kind of legends?  Generations of European children were told to behave themselves or their parents would “sell them to the Gypsies,” like it was a fate worse than death.   And now this!   Look at the child’s expression.  Clearly, in this case, it is.

Already there are people screaming about anti-Gypsy sentiment and political correctness and racial profiling, etc., but to them I say, “Shut up.”  The child has already been found with these people.  She isn’t theirs.  Other children living with them aren’t theirs, either.  They’re lying about the circumstances that brought her to them, which is the tip-off.  Something is clearly wrong with this picture, and it’s not about their ethnic background.  It’s about their actions, which, it’s clear, suck.  If their Romany background is in any way relevant, it’s to lead to the question of just what this particular Gypsy child trafficking situation here is, and how long it’s been going on.  What are they doing?  Is this insanity isolated, or is it, really and truly, not just a criminal act but a part of some long, sick criminal tradition?  If so, what are the particulars?  How is it run?  How might a child from Kansas City have wound up in this Romany camp on the other side of the world?

My heart goes out to the child, whoever she may be.  She’s a little doll who ought to be playing with toys, jumping rope, having fun – not exhibiting the bearing of a prisoner of war before starting kindergarten.  Maria, I hope you turn out to be Lisa Irwin.  I hope it’s all going to get infinitely better for you and that you’ll be smiling like the happy child you were born to be soon.  I also hope whoever got you into this mess gets prosecuted to the fullest extent of international law.

God bless you, little Maria!  Let’s hope the discovery of you will lead to the return of several missing children.

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