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A woman has been reunited with her birth family after she was kidnapped by human traffickers in Romania - with doctors falsely telling her parents she was dead.
Last year, Belle Barbu, 26, from Utah, was reunited with her Romanian family after 25 years with the help of human trafficking charity Operation Underground Railroad (OUR).
Barbu was born slightly premature, and doctors falsely told her birth parents their baby had a heart condition and she would need to stay in hospital for a few days.
When the couple returned to the hospital, they were given the devastating news their baby had died - but another staff member told them the doctors had lied to them, and their baby has been kidnapped to be sold in the US.
OUR founder Tim Ballard told Deseret News: "They use the legitimate orphanage system, falsify the birth certificate, send the child to an orphanage, adopt it out and make a ton of money - around $15,000 to $20,000 a kid.
"A newborn is very valuable."
Her parents tried desperately to search for her, but they were a poor family who still live without running water and were unsuccessful due to their limited means.
Belle grew up with an American family - who she has been estranged from since 2013. She knew she was adopted from Romania, but with no idea who her birth family was.
Curious about her origins, a friend encouraged her to join a Facebook group for adopted Romanians which had helped reunite 500 people with their birth families.
After telling the group her family was from Sadova, Romania, within 48 hours they had tracked down Barbu's birth family and found they were in Italy. She also learned that she had two siblings - a sister and a brother.
Barbu shared her story with Operation Underground Railroad - who confirmed via DNA tests the Romanian couple were in fact Barbu's long lost birth parents. The charity also provided the funds for the family to be reunited, and she was accompanied by Ballard.
Speaking to him ahead of the reunion, she said: "My sister, I personally think it affected her the most, she was like, 'I pray for you every day, even though we're a world apart our blood bond doesn't separate us.'
"That to me was just like, wow, I've never been forgotten."
The family were reunited in November 2019 in Foggia, southern Italy - with Barbu and her birth parents bursting into tears and exchanging long-overdue hugs.
Barbu told Deseret News: "My mom thought I was dead multiple times in her life and yet I'm alive giving her a hug.
"It was such a blessing and to know they were excited to see me. I was so happy."
You can find out more about Operation Underground Railroad and the work they do to help the survivors of human trafficking here.
Featured Image Credit: Operation Underground Railroad
Topics: World News
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