On April 22, 1984, a railway worker at the Estació de França train station in Barcelona noticed a two-year-old girl crying. The girl, named Elvira, was accompanied by her 4- and 5-year-old brothers… and no one else.
When the worker asked what was wrong, 5-year-old Ramón explained that they had been left there by their father’s friend, who claimed he was going to get candy, but never returned. Oddly enough, when asked for details that may have helped return the children to their parents, the children were unable to answer. They didn’t know their parents’ first names, where they currently lived, or even their own surname. All they knew was that they had lived in Paris until recently.
Confident that the parents would turn up at some point, the authorities brought the children to a local orphanage.
Days, weeks, and months passed. No one came to claim them.
Coming to terms with a mysterious past
The siblings were eventually adopted by a local couple and raised together as a close-knit, happy family. Elvira did wonder about her birth parents and why they might have abandoned her, but she didn’t give it much thought for most of her childhood. Her brothers had small snippets of memory from their former life that would emerge at random moments, but she had no reason to dwell on their mysterious past… until she had children of her own.
Elvira had two children, and the love she felt for them was so fierce and so deep, she couldn’t imagine what terrible tragedy must have occurred to drive her own mother to abandon her and her siblings. Furthermore, as her sons grew older, she began to realize how strange the whole story was: how could her 5-year-old brother not have known his own last name?
Finally, in December 2020, Elvira decided to purchase a MyHeritage DNA test for herself as a Christmas present.
She could never have imagined how deep a rabbit hole she was about to fall into.
A community effort
The initial results were surprising for Elvira. She had always been sure that her family was French, given the circumstances of her abandonment and the few memories her brothers had of the life they’d had before they were abandoned. However, the vast majority of DNA Matches she received were in southern Spain, not France. Unfortunately, all of the matches were too distant for her to reach any quick conclusions about the identities of her birth parents. She reached out to some of them, but no one had any helpful information to share. She was sure she had reached a dead end and would never know who her parents were.
When Elvira shared with her brothers and adoptive parents that she had taken a DNA test, their mother revealed to them that certain stories they had told her when they were younger had led her to believe that their parents might have been involved in crime. The idea was unsettling to Elvira, who had been too young to remember anything about her parents.
In March 2021, a friend of Elvira’s connected her with the Catalan radio station RAC-1, and a popular evening talk show, Islàndia, featured a recorded interview with her about her story. Her interview sparked a flood of interest from the public, and she was inundated with offers to help. One listener, amateur criminologist Carmen Pastor Argos, created a viral Facebook post calling for people to help solve the mystery, and a team of volunteers was assembled. Elvira’s siblings, Ramón and Ricard, also took DNA tests some time after their sister did.
The initial breakthrough came through a distant match on MyHeritage — someone who shared just 1.4% of Elvira’s DNA. The team managed to contact her and Carmen followed the thread of connections with great determination until she reached a distant cousin who was familiar with the story of the children. Finally, Carmen reached Lorena, the daughter of a first cousin of the siblings’ biological mother.
A big, close-knit new family… and a complicated family history
That night, Elvira spoke with Lorena, and soon, Elvira found herself on a video chat with her brother Ramón and their potential cousins. The family showed them photographs of themselves as babies and other family members — including a woman Ramón immediately recognized as their grandmother. But most importantly, there they were: Ramón Martos Sánchez, after whom Ramón was named, and Rosario Cuetos Cruz. Their parents.
But why did they leave their children, and where were they now? Unfortunately, these were questions the family wasn’t able to answer. They had lost contact with Ramón, Rosario, and the children in 1983, and no one knew what became of them.
Still, the relatives were thrilled to have found Elvira and her brothers and welcomed them enthusiastically into the family. The siblings traveled to Madrid to meet their mother’s family, and were soon able to piece together more details about their pasts. Ramón Sr. was from Seville, one of 7 siblings, only one of whom was still alive at the time — and sadly, she passed away just two days after learning that her missing nephews and niece had been found.
The siblings confirmed their adoptive mother’s suspicions about their parents’ involvement in crime: Ramón Sr. had been a burglar, and in 1978, he fled to France with his family following a shootout with the police. Ramón Sr. and Rosario lived in many different places, moving between Paris and Toulouse in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Spain. The exact year of their arrival in France is unknown, but documentation turned up recording that Ramón Jr. was born in the region of Paris in June 1978, so it seems likely they arrived there in 1977 or early 1978.
While the family described Ramón Sr. as charming and fun-loving, and the photos depicted a happy, loving family, there were darker sides to Elvira’s birth parents. Ramón was violent towards Rosario and had a reputation as a womanizer. The relatives firmly argued that Rosario loved her children very deeply, but there was a hard side to her, as well. Elvira was told that Rosario rarely laughed.
“I think she had a tough life, made harder by being always on the lookout or on the run,” Elvira told The Guardian in a recent interview.
Given the amount of time that has passed, it seems unlikely that Ramón Sr. and Rosario are still alive. The cousins knew that Ramón Sr. had been ill in the time leading up to their disappearance, and it’s possible that his death led to the children’s abandonment. It’s also possible that the parents left their children with the father’s friend out of concern for their safety, and then died on a dangerous job or were murdered by a rival gang. Elvira has continued the search for information about what happened to them, and is hopeful that the full story will eventually come to light.
In the meantime, she has found herself suddenly part of a big, close-knit family in central and southern Spain. While she maintains a tight and loving relationship with her adoptive family and friends at home, she fits in with her new family in ways she never had in Catalonia — for example, her lifelong love for flamenco. Her Aunt Felisa explained that her father had loved flamenco and was always listening to it on the radio. One of her cousins is a flamenco dancer, too. Connecting with her biological family has made her feel more complete.
Elvira may never know what led her parents to leave her, but she is grateful for the way things turned out, knowing that the life she had growing up in Barcelona was likely much better, safer, and more stable than the one she might have led with her birth parents. One of her sons, hearing the stories about her childhood, expressed some worry about being abandoned, but Elvira reassured him: “I tell him this is something unique that happened to me and won’t happen to him,” she told The Guardian.