The mystery of Natalia Grace Barnett’s true age swept the nation in 2019 as her former adoptive parents, Michael and Kristine Barnett, faced charges of neglect for abandoning Natalia in an apartment in Indiana. But was she an independent 24-year-old, as the Barnetts believed, or a 10-year-old left to fend for herself? The only person who could provide an answer was Natalia’s biological mother, Anna Volodymyrivna Gava.

Who Is Natalia Grace’s Biological Mother?

As seen in the ID network’s docuseries, The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, which premiered in May 2023, Michael and Kristine adopted Ukraine-born Natalia Grace in 2010, believing she was 6 years old. However, Natalia’s alleged violent behavior and mature physical appearance led the adoptive parents to suspect that she was actually an adult with a severe form of dwarfism. They accused her of being a “sociopath” and a “con artist” who wanted to kill them.

After two years with Natalia, Michael and Kristine had her birth year legally changed from 2003 to 1989. They rented her an apartment in Indiana and moved to Canada, leaving her to live on her own. However, neighbors were concerned that she was being neglected as a minor and as a dependent with a disability, which kickstarted an investigation into Michael and Kristine. 

In order to determine her true age, investigators visited Ukraine to find Natalia Grace’s biological mother, Anna Volodymyrivna Gava, in 2019. A DNA test determined that Anna and Natalia were a “99.999% match,” the docuseries revealed. 

Not much is known about Anna’s personal life before Natalia’s birth. She revealed in the docuseries that she was born in Latvia on April 20, 1979. Anna grew up with a twin sister named Tatyana, who knew that Anna had agreed to put Natalia up for adoption in America. Anna led a private life after Natalia was adopted.

When Was Natalia Grace Actually Born?

Natalia’s story went viral in 2019 when Michael and Kristine were charged. This put media attention on Anna, who decided to speak to the press. 

In an interview with Daily Mail TV, Anna insisted that Natalia’s birthday was September 3, 2003, as originally stated on her birth record. Anna also confirmed that Natalia was an infant when she gave her up for adoption because she couldn’t give proper care to Natalia’s disability. She hoped Natalia would someday return to Ukraine to see her.

“Daughter, forgive me for what happened 16 years ago. Visit soon for me to see you,” she said. “We are waiting for you. You have two sisters and two brothers.”

Why Did Anna Gava Put Natalia Grace Up for Adoption?

Anna was interviewed again in 2022 ahead of Michael’s trial. Footage from the interview was shown in The Curious Case of Natalia Grace. Again, Anna reiterated Natalia’s 2003 birth date and described her birth as “difficult.”

“When I regained consciousness, after anesthesia, the next day the doctor came and said there is no sense to take her home,” Anna said of Natalia’s disability. “They said that she won’t be able to walk at all and she will be of very short stature.”

Anna added that a surgery to help Natalia would have cost $100,000, which she could not afford.

“I didn’t initially want to leave her, but the doctors said there is nothing you could do for her. ‘You are young,’ they said, ‘You are 24 years old. Don’t ruin your life, you will have other children,'” she said tearfully.

Anna revealed in the docuseries that she currently has four kids in addition to Natalia. She had already had a daughter named Julia when she gave birth to Natalia.

Anna added that she regrets giving Natalia up and has thought about her for years. She said she was shocked to hear the accusations Michael and Kristine made against Natalia and the way they left her in Indiana.

“[Natalia] was promised piles of gold and it turned out the opposite,” she said.

Where Is Anna Gava Now?

Anna’s last known residence was in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, in 2019, according to Daily Mail TV. Natalia currently lives in Indiana with her new adoptive parents, Cynthia and Antwon Mans.

Anna opened up about wanting to reconnect with her daughter during episode 2 of The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks, which premiered on ID on January 2, 2024.

In a solo interview with producers, Anna recognized that 19 years apart was a “significant period” of time to be away from her daughter but added, “I would like her to be with me.”

“I think about it all the time,” the Ukraine native continued. “Frankly, I would like her to be here with me.”

Meanwhile, Natalia was hesitant to “open that door” with her biological mother. “I get it, you probably do wanna see me and everything like that, but I have a family here. I have my parents who raised me,” she explained in a separate interview. “It’s different with Anna because she only gave birth to me, but she let me go pretty much that same day. It started bringing in some hurt emotions because I haven’t been in the Ukraine since I was 5.”

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