Urals, Russia - Two families have discovered that they have been raising each others daughters after the girls were swapped at birth 14 years ago. The Belyaevs and the Iskanderovs, from the Russian Urals, only learned the truth after a DNA test was carried out to establish the paternity of Irina Belyaeva when she was 12.
To the astonishment of her mother Yulia and father Alexei, the results showed the girl they had brought up from birth was not their biological daughter. Instead, she was the child of Yelena and Naimat Iskanderov, who had in turn raised Yulia and Alexei's girl Anna.
The parents now 'share' their daughters, although they have struggled with how differently their biological children have been raised. The Belyaevs are Christians while the Iskanderovs are Muslim.
The horrendous mix-up began when Yulia, 32, from Kopeisk in the Urals and Alexei, were expecting their first baby in 1998, The Siberian Times reported.
Naimat, 36, an ethnic Tajik, married the then 16-year-old Yelena, and their baby was due at the same date.
The two women gave birth to their daughters on December 17. Yulia gave birth at 1.30am to a girl she called Irina, 15 minutes after Yelena welcomed her baby daughter, called Anna.
When both new mothers fell asleep, it is thought that the girls were switched and wrongly tagged as the other. When the delighted new parents brought them home, Yulia's husband Alexei questioned why their daughter had such dark hair and features, when they were pale and blond - but his wife thought she had picked it up from other family traits.
Naimat did not question why his daughter was as 'white as sugar' and thought his baby had taken after her Russian mother.
The problems began when Alexei became suspicious of Irina, and accused Yulia of cheating on him. He accused Irina of not being his biological daughter, and demanded a divorce in 2007, accusing his wife of cheating on him. She insisted she had not and, when Alexei refused to financially support Irina, Yulia took him to court, and a DNA test to confirm paternity was arranged in 2010. It was then that tests revealed that neither of Irina's parents were biologically related to her - she had been swapped at birth. After contacting the Prosecutor's Office in 2011, an investigator tracked down Naimat and, with him, Yulia's biological daughter, called Anna.
Naimat had been blissfully unaware there was an problem and initially refused to meet with the other family, but relented and met his biological daughter, who he described as his 'mirror image'.
Three years on and the families now 'share' their 14-year-old daughters, with Anna and Irina calling both parents 'Mama' and 'Papa'. The stark cultural differences between the two families meant that it would be impossible for the girls to simply swap back to their biological families. They have decided to continue raising each others biological daughters primarily as their own responsibility, but celebrate holidays and birthdays with each other.
But cultural differences did cause some trouble. Yulia feared that her daughter would marry at a young age in an organised marriage and she would stop communicating with her.
Naimat struggled to come to terms with Irina's manner of being very open, not shy to talk to boys, and asking for a lot of hugs and kisses from relatives.
However, Naimat said that no decisions had been made on any of the children's future arrangements and the families were attempting to be in as much contact with each other as possible.
He said: 'First of all we live in the different villages and the second thing is that we have different cultural background, different religions and beliefs. 'We are just different, but that doesn't prevent us from communicating and spending time together.'
The pair decided to prosecute the hospital for negligence. They were awarded six million roubles each (around $200,000), but they are still waiting payment because the maternity hospital has no money.