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28 Jun, 2008 01:50

Russian women in international tug-of-love battles

Two Russian women have been barred from seeing their children after their fathers took matters into their own hands and took the children away. What makes these women's fight to see their children all the more difficult

There are no established legal procedures for cooperation between countries when it comes to settling an international tug of love. The fact is that every country tends to come down on the side of its own citizens.

Marsha Whyte's story

Marsha Whyte now has to face each day without seeing her 13-year-old daughter, who was taken to the U.S. by her father. She remembers only too well the day her daughter was abducted.

“I realised something was wrong. It was dark and I found my mother in the bathroom, unconscious and tied to the radiator – and Nina was gone,” Marsha recalls.

That was seven years ago, and Marsha hasn't seen her daughter since.

Her ex-husband Larry Whyte, originally from London, is one of Interpol's most wanted and a warrant is out for his arrest. Despite this, RT managed to track him down.

He's accused by Moscow police of conspiracy to kidnap and attempted abduction, but he strongly denies the charges:

“It's a lie, total fabrication. Nobody was beaten up. Yes, my friend brought her home, but it was not abduction and it was what Nina wanted. Her mother has been a danger to her pretty much since the day she was born,” Larry says.

Larry lives with Nina in Houston, Texas, where Marsha also lived before they divorced. But she is banned from visiting by a Texas court after violating her custody rights in 1998 and taking Nina with her to Moscow. She's seen in America as being part of the Russian mafia and a danger to Nina, which she finds totally incomprehensible.

But after several failed hearings at a cost of hundreds of thousand of dollars, Marsha has given up fighting, spending all her hours at work as a distraction from what's missing at home.
However, the cost isn't the main reason why it's so difficult as Igor Trunov from the  International Union of Lawyers explains, “In Russia we don’t have agreements for mutual legal cooperation with countries like America, and  the legal system of a country tends to protect its citizens. During a divorce, it’s nearly impossible to defeat a citizen of the country in court and take a child away from the country.”

Evgenia Golovina's story

Marsha's situation is in no way unique. Many other Russian women are also fighting to see their children, and not only those living in Russia, but also abroad. 

Evgenia Golovina moved to Egypt to marry. She says her problems started when she filed for divorce and her husband kidnapped their son. She hasn't seen her son since.

“The Egyptian authorities and my country have no law to deal with it more effectively. I have to stay here in Hurghada to work and try to get my child back. I have no plans for the future now, only the hope that I get my child back one day,” says Evgenia.

Her husband Samir rejects accusations of abduction saying such a thing is impossible under Islamic law. According to Sharia law, in mixed marriages the child will always come under the custody of the father.

Not surprisingly, the child often pays an emotional price for the parents' battles.

“The child's opinion is not taken into account. The child has to face decisions taken by his or her parents. Children turn out to be victims, being robbed of something precious. In this sense, it's a variety of abuse,” says child psychologist Vladislav Mozhaisky.
Whatever the rules, until the child is old enough to make his or her own choices, he or she is the one who's really trapped in an international tug of love.