TWIN girls separated by a hospital blunder 35 years ago have found each other by chance – but the discovery has brought deep heartache as well as joy.
Uliyana was raised by her real parents in a loving family of teachers in the Russian city of Perm.
East2west News Uliyana (L), Ksenia (M) with Yana (R), who believed she was one of the twin sisters
Her blood sister Ksenia was given to the wrong mother, a woman who was stripped of her rights to raise children.
So at the age of four the Soviet authorities moved her to a grim orphanage.
Meanwhile, their blood mother was given another girl to raise – called Yana – who belonged to Elena Azanova, now 62, the woman who had taken home Ksenia.
The appalling mistake went unnoticed for 35 years, and then was uncovered by pure chance.
East2west News Yana was in for a shock as DNA results confirmed she had been swapped at birth
East2west News The twins’ mother Galina (L) with Uliyana, Ksenia and Yana as they discovered the shocking truth
A friend of Uliyana’s saw her in Perm – or thought she did.
“My friend Elena called me and said: ‘I was driving past you, beeped, you turned your head but did not say a word or wave.
“I replied in surprise – ‘How could you see me in the car when I am here at home watching TV?’
“Elena was shocked and asked: ‘Then who is that woman who just went in a café? She is your clone!’”
Her friend rushed to find the woman, and asked to take a picture of her.
“Elena forwarded me the photo – it was my face,” said Uliyana.
Several days later Uliyana went to meet Ksenia, her lookalike.
They knew at once they must be sisters.
They were both blonde, tall and full of smiles.
Both with the same hair style, gestures, and laughed in an identical way.
Immediately they suspected that Ksenia and Yana must have been swapped – and agreed to DNA tests which proved that Uliyana’s mother and father were the biological parents of Ksenia.
It was also established that Ksenia’s blood mother had given birth to Yana.
East2west News Ksenia (L) hugs Yana during TV show which revealed that Yana is not one of the twins and is not related to the family she grew up in
The blunder was confirmed on a nationwide NTV channel show – called DNA – bringing home the agony.
For Yana, her ‘entire world collapsed within one minute – her parents and sisters turned into strangers’, said newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
In contrast, Knesia found the family she had longed for.
yana, married with two daughters, said: “All my life I knew that Yana was my sister.
“We love each other but we have never been really close.
“We are very different.
“We have different interests and friends.
“And when I met Ksenia, I immediately felt an invisible link with her, she was my relative.”
Galina and Vladimir Shilov had been expecting their second child in 1982, when she was 26.
“We had a daughter Anya and I was expecting again. There were no scans at that time and my midwife kept saying that she could feel too many limbs – but we did not expect twins,” she said.
East2west News Yana, pictured here as a baby, looked nothing like her ‘twin sister’ – even down to her colouring
East2west News Yana (L) and Uliyana (R) grew up believing they were twin sisters
Her daughters were born on 5 December 1982, first Uliyana, then a second girl.
“I saw my second daughter just twice in the maternity hospital,” she said.
The second twin was rushed to a children’s hospital for treatment because she was “too weak”.
“I was discharged from hospital with my first baby,” said Galina.
“We were not allowed to visit our second baby in the hospital because of a flu epidemic.”
A month later the family were told they could collect their second baby.
Vladimir said: “I went to the hospital and the baby was handed over to me through a window.
“She was wrapped in a blanket.
“The nurse opened her face and asked me – ‘is this your baby?’
“Well, if it was given to me, it means it was mine. I did not have any single thought that I picked up someone else’s baby.”
East2west News Galina and Vladimir with older daughter (standing) and ‘twins’ Uliyana, in her dad’s arms and Yana, held by Galina
When they undressed the baby, they were shocked.
She had bruises, nappy rash and bedsores.
Vladimir said that in Soviet times they couldn’t complain.
“People would have thought that we did not want to keep the baby. So we never got back to that hospital and cured our baby ourselves.”
The “twins” grew up very differently.
Uliyana was tall, blonde and blue eyed.
Yana – now a mother of one who lives with Galina – looked like “a little gypsy girl – with dark and adorable big black eyes”.
Galina said: “Their characters were totally different.
“Uliyana was a quiet home girl.
“She loved dolls, and played the violin.
“Yana was like a little boy – she ran outside, playing with toy cars.”
East2west News A friend of Uliyana (L) thought she had seen her in town but was shocked to discover it was in fact her twin
They persuaded themselves that one girl looked more like her mother, the other like her father.
“To be honest, from time to time I was anxious about it but I never told anybody,” said Galina.
“I did not even allow myself to think that Yana could be someone else’s daughter”.
Galina admitted that the truth has been devastating for Yana.
Her real mother recently had a double stroke and cannot walk or speak now.
“She was so upset,” said the mother who raised her.
“We are trying to support her, to spend more time with her.
“She is our child; she will remain our daughter forever.”
East2west News This image shows a young Yelena, the biological mother of Yana
Yana said: “My parents held back this truth for a while.
“They were not brave enough to disclose it to me, that Uliyana’s real sister has been found.
“On the one hand, I was very happy for my sister, but on the other hand I felt so lonely.
“We are all friends now.
“We often meet and communicate but still I am often very sad.
“I have the one and only mother – Galina.
“I went to meet my biological brother Dmitry but we did not get on well.”
East2west News Yana is pictured here with her with re-discovered biological brother Dmitry
It is believed she has not met her blood mother who is too ill.
“I still cannot accept this for now,” said Yana.
It turned out that Yana – born a day after the twins – was also sent to hospital after birth due to low weight.
She and Ksenia were treated together – without their mothers being allowed to visit because of the flu epidemic.
Ksenia told of her miserable home life – a fate that should have been Yana’s.
“I lived with my mother just for four years,” she said.
“I had a brother.
“Then our mother was deprived of her parental rights and I was sent to an orphanage with my brother.
“This is where I grew up.
“Our mother visited us couple of times – but she was not really interested.
“She drank a lot, then she was ill, now she can’t walk, she had a stroke.
“Because of doctors’ negligence I grew up in the orphanage.
“I did not have a mother, father and sisters.
“I dreamed about a family so many times.
“I had to survive in the orphanage and it affected my character.”
She was not chosen for adoption, she said.
East2west News Twins Ksenia (L) and Uliyana (R) are now getting to know each other and catching up on 35 lost years
East2west News The sisters were separated at birth and went on to live incredibly contrasting lives
The brother raised with her Dmitry – who now cares for their mother – said: “I remember how they took me and Ksenia away to the orphanage.
“We often protected each other there. I think of Ksenia as my real sister”.
Now Ksenia is a mother of three, with sons 13 and 11, and a daughter, two.
Galina said: “We are so worried about Ksenia.
“Her childhood was taken away from her.
“She did not have parental love, toys and sweets.
“We lost the chance to care for her, to give her education.
“Who is guilty? We want justice.”
This week a Russian court has awarded compensation of £11,300 each to Uliyana, Yana and parents Vladimir and Galina.
Ksenia was awarded £13,600.
The baby swap victims had asked for ten times as much and their lawyer Igor Savvin said they are deciding whether to appeal.
East2west News Parents Galina, Vladimir with Yana, who they thought was their biological daughter
East2west News The twins and Yana have all become friends and are forging new relationships in adult life
The case is the latest in a spate of tragic swapped baby stories from the Soviet era that have only come to light with the use of DNA testing years later.
Meanwhile a lawyer for the hospital hit out at the scale of the compensation ordered by the court.
Evgeny Kozminykh said: “Usually such multi-million rouble lawsuits are filed when a tragedy took place, when a patient died due to the doctor’s mistake or became disabled.
“Here, in my opinion, we see a happy event.
“People found each other after so many years.
“As a lawyer I must say that I do not accept this lawsuit.”