Last night as I was polishing off a pint of Guinness in The Grapes, the girl behind the bar told me I should write something about my dad’s story.
My father was born in 1959 in the west of Ireland, back when Ireland was one of the poorest countries in Europe, if not the poorest itself.
He was the youngest child of 15 who survived birth, he was also a twin. The family he was born into were simply too poor to afford to bring up another two children, so his parents agreed to send him and his twin to England to be brought up by his mother’s brother who had gone over there for work long ago.
That’s the simplest and shortest way of telling his story, and it is quite the remarkable one. However it has nothing on the story below which has recently made headlines across the globe.
Over 30 years ago in a Soviet-era Russian hospital two baby girls were born. One was named Katya, the other Luciya. Both were born in 1987.
However a mistake was made in the Chelyabinsk hospital and Zoya Tuganova, now 72, ended up taking home the wrong baby, Katya, to her rich family, reports the London Evening Standard.
Katya was brought up in a well to-do family, enjoying an upper class life, which led to her going to university and working her way up to a highly successful career.
However Zoya’s birth daughter was sent home with an incredibly poor family who believed she was their child.
Elvira Tuligenova presumed Luciya was her own baby and took the newborn back to an impoverished Russian village where she was brought up.
However Elvira’s husband questioned the baby due to her light skin and believed that his wife had been impregnated by another man.
The husband battered Elvira for the suspected affair before finding the man he believed to be the child’s real father and murdering him.
In the aftermath of the chaos, Elvira turned to alcohol and quickly became incredibly dependant on it.
Luciya was then forced to beg for food to survive and spent her early life in dire hardship.
Only recently the huge mistake was confirmed by a DNA test and Zoya went to court with both Luciya and Katya to seek damages.
They went to court expecting around 10 million roubles (around £140,000) in compensation for ‘moral damages’, however they left the courtroom ‘disappointed’ after being granted a meagre 1 million roubles (£11,000). Not a lot of money considering two lives were changed utterly by the blunder.
While all were left hurt by the low compensation they were granted, none were perhaps left worse off than Luciya who continues to live in ‘grinding poverty’ and is trying to bring up three children of her own.
Apparently when Zoya met Luciya for the first time in so many years, she immediately recognised her as her own.
One positive of this whole story is that Luciya and Katya have since become friends and Zoya is doing everything she can to help Luciya bring up her children.
A heartbreaking and fascinating story which brings to life the class divide across the world. The mere accident of your birth, providing you get brought home by your family, could mean you either grow up in a world of opportunity or hardship.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.