For the past two years, Amy and Ano have been trying to figure out why their fates turned out the way they did, and who was to blame. When the truth came out, it was discovered that tens of thousands of newborn babies had been stolen and sold from the hospitals in Sackartwell. Although there have been several attempts to investigate these crimes, so far the culprits have not been found.
Amy and Ano miraculously found out about each other when they were twelve.
Amy Chvitia was watching her favorite show “Sakartvelo Talentai” on TV at her grandmother’s house near the Black Sea. And saw a jiva-dancing girl who looked like her like two drops of water. Actually, not similar, but identical.
“Everyone started calling my mom and asking why Amy was on TV, why she was dancing and introducing herself under a different name,” she says. Amy mentioned this to her family, but they seemed to ignore it. “We all have a second half,” reassured my mother.
Seven years later, in November 2021, Amy, who had dyed her hair blue, shared a video of herself getting a piercing on her eyebrow on the TikTok platform.
320 kilometers away from Tbilisi, another 19-year-old girl, Ano Sartanai, was sent the mentioned video by her friend. The girl thought, “Cool, she looks just like me.” And tried to find a girl with an eyebrow piercing online, but couldn’t, so she shared the post on a university WhatsApp group, hoping someone could help her. Someone who knew Amy saw the request and brought the girls together on Facebook.
Amy knew at that moment that Ano was the girl she had seen all those years ago on Cartwell’s Got Talent.
“I’ve been looking for you for so long!” Amy wrote. “Me too,” Ano told her.
According to the BBC, over the next few days the girls discovered they had a lot in common, but not everything seemed logical. Both were born at the now-defunct Kirtschi Maternity Hospital in western Sakartvel, but the dates on their birth certificates differ by several weeks. As if they couldn’t be sisters, let alone twins, there were just too many similarities and coincidences.
Both liked the same music, both liked to dance, and even chose similar hairstyles. They found out that they are suffering from the same genetic disease – the bone disease dysplasia.
The feeling that he was about to discover some secret did not leave him. “Every time I learned something new about Ano, everything seemed to change,” Amy admits. After a week, the girls decided to meet. When Amy took the escalator at the Rustaveli metro station in Tbilisi, the sisters saw each other live for the first time.
“I felt like I was looking in a mirror – identical face, identical voice. I’m her and she’s me,” says Amy, who says she immediately felt like she was a twin.
“I don’t really like hugs, but I really wanted to hug her,” Ano admits.
The girls agreed not to wait for anything and to support their families against the wall – that’s when they learned the truth. In 2002, they were adopted by different families, the events were separated by several weeks.
Amy was very sad, it seemed like her whole life was one big lie. Dressed in head-to-toe black, the girl looks fierce and determined, but as she tells her story, she nervously tugs at her necklace and wipes away a tear stained with black mascara: “Crazy story, but it’s true.”
Ano was very angry with his family, but insisted that “difficult conversations end as soon as possible and we can move on with our lives.”
Digging deeper, the twins noticed details on the birth certificates, such as the wrong date of birth.
Amy’s mother, who cannot have children of her own, says that one of her friends told her about an unwanted baby left at a local hospital: she should pay the doctors and she could take the baby and raise it as her own. Ana’s mother also heard an identical story in her time.
None of the adoptive families had any idea that they were taking on one of the twins. Although they paid considerable sums for the adoption, they say they never thought for a moment that it might be illegal. It was a troubled time in Sakartvel, the scheme involved medics, so there was no thought that it could be illegal.
Neither family disclosed how much they paid for the opportunity to raise a child. For the twins themselves, the most interesting thing was to find out if it could be that the biological parents simply sold them.
Amy set out to find her biological mother, but Ano hesitated, “Why would you want to meet someone who might have disowned us?”
On Facebook, Amy found a group for families in Sackartwell whose children were given up for illegal adoption immediately after birth, and shared her story. A young woman from Germany wrote to her and told her that her mother gave birth to twins in the Kirtschi maternity hospital in 2002, she was told that the babies did not survive, but now she began to have doubts.
DNA tests confirmed that the girl from the Facebook group is indeed the twins’ sister and lives in Germany with their biological mother, Aza.
Amy desperately wanted to meet her biological mother, but Ano was skeptical: “That woman might have sold you, she’s definitely not telling the whole truth.” Despite her misgivings, Ano finally agreed to go with Amy and support her.
The Facebook group used by the twins is called “Vedzeb”, a word that means “I’m looking” in Kartveli. It contains numerous accounts of women who were told at the maternity hospital that their baby had died, but later found out that the deaths were not recorded anywhere, meaning their children could be alive. Other posts are about children like Amy and Ano who are searching for their biological parents.
The group owns over 230 thousand members. It was they and the access to DNA data sites that opened one of the darkest pages in the history of Sarkartvel. The group was founded in 2021 by journalist Tamuna Museridze when she found out she was adopted. While cleaning her mother’s house, she found her birth certificate and noticed the false information on it. She started the group in search of her family, but it quickly grew into a huge community and eventually exposed the ugly truth of a child-trafficking scheme that affected tens of thousands of people over several decades. Without expecting it at all, the journalist helped hundreds of families meet, but she hasn’t found hers yet.
T. Museridze found out that from the 1950s to 2005, a black adoption market was operating throughout Sakartvel. According to the journalist, it was run by organized criminals, countless people were involved, from taxi drivers to officials. Corrupt officials falsified documents required for illegal adoptions.
“The scale is difficult to understand, in total up to 100,000 people were kidnapped. babies The process was systematic,” the journalist explains.
T. Museridze says that she got such an impressive number after counting the number of people who approached her and adjusting the factors of time and scale. Without being able to get access to the necessary documents – some have been lost, others were never prepared – it is simply impossible to provide exact numbers.
The journalist says that she heard from many parents that they wanted to see their dead baby, to say goodbye, but it was explained to them that the remains were already buried at the entrance of the hospital. It turns out that none of the hospitals in Sackartwell have anything like such a cemetery. There have been cases when parents were shown the remains of their baby taken from the morgue.
T. Museridze claims that it was very expensive to buy a child – equal to an average annual salary. It was found that some of the newborns were taken abroad: to the United States, Canada, Cyprus, Russia and Ukraine.
Adoption laws were changed in Sakartvele in 2005, legal measures against human trafficking were tightened in 2006, so illegal adoption became too risky.
Another person looking for answers is Irina Otarashvili. She gave birth to twins in 1978 at the Kvarelis maternity hospital. The doctors said the boys were healthy, but for reasons she never explained, she was unable to see her children. Three days later, the boys were reported to have died suddenly, the doctor explained, as breathing problems. Neither Irina nor her husband could possibly understand it, but as she explains, in Soviet times “you don’t dare to go against the system.” Saints believed everything the doctors lied about.
The couple were asked to bring a suitcase for the babies’ remains, in which they could be buried in a cemetery or in the backyard, as was the practice in those days. The doctor ordered strictly not to open the suitcase, because the image will be etched for life.
Irina did everything as she was told, but after 44 years, her daughter Nino found T. Museridze’s group on Facebook and began to suspect this and that.
“What if my brothers didn’t die?” the woman began to think. Nino, together with his sister Nana, decided to dig up a suitcase buried in the backyard.
“My heart was pounding like it was going to jump out of my chest. When we opened the product, we found only branches, not a single bone. We don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” says Nino. Local police confirmed that there were never human remains in the suitcase, only grape branches. The woman is convinced that her brothers are alive.
At a hotel in Leipzig, Amy and Ano meet their biological mother. At the last minute, Ano changes her mind and wants to cancel everything, but takes a few deep breaths and decides not to go. In another room, their mother Aza is nervously waiting for the meeting.
Amy tentatively opens the door, followed by Ana, pushing her sister into the room. Aza jumps up and hugs her daughters tightly. The hug lasts for more than a minute, no one says a word. Tears are streaming down Amy’s cheeks, but Ano is holding firm, she even looks a little upset. All three sit down for a conversation. The twins later revealed that the mother had slipped into a coma after telling them that she had not been seriously ill after giving birth. When he woke up, the hospital staff explained that the girls did not survive the birth.
The woman admits: getting to know Amy and Ano gave her life a new meaning. Although they are not very close, they maintain a connection.
In 2022, Sakartvel authorities launched an investigation into child trafficking. Spokespeople told the BBC they had already spoken to more than 40 people, but all the cases were “old and the relevant data had been lost”. Journalist T. Museridze claims to have shared the available information with the authorities, but the representatives do not specify when they intend to present the investigation report.
There were a total of four attempts to figure out what might have happened. One of them is an investigation into international child trafficking conducted in 2003, during which suspects were arrested, but the public did not receive much information. A second investigation was launched in 2015. Sakartveli media wrote at the time that the director of the Rustavi Maternity Hospital, Aleksandras Baravkovis, was arrested, but later the charges against him were dropped and he returned to work.
The BBC approached the Sakartwell Home Office with a request to provide more information about the specific cases mentioned, but received a response that they could not share any specific details due to data protection.
T. Museridze has now joined forces with human rights lawyer Lia Muchašavria and intends to seek justice in court together with the victims. Seeks to gain access to birth documents, which cannot be done under current Sackartwell law. The women hope that one day they will be able to find out the truth.