Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Four Children Kidnapped in Florence

In today's post I am addressing a very serious issue that involves a close personal friend of mine who chooses to remain anonymous for the sake of the children involved. She and her brother are both American expats living in Florence.  I hope that you will read the entire post and offer your comments below as the more comments that are written on this blog the easier it will be to find in searches and that means more awareness of the issue and more of a chance of bringing these 4 children home safely.

Unfortunately we hear about missing children every day.  We see their photos on the news and posted all over the internet. We recognize this as an awful crime against children and can sympathize with the parents involved, but then all of a sudden, it hits strikingly close to home.

Over the past three years my friend has told me stories about her brother's ex-wife Marianne Grin and the crazy things that she has done during their divorce proceeding to him, to herself, but most importantly to her own children.  Stories that you couldn't even make up because they are so outrageous. And then all of a sudden the absolute worst story of them all. The children are gone. All four of them. They have been kidnapped and taken to Russia by their own mother and will not allow their father to have any contact with them or even let him know that they are okay. As an aunt to 16 nieces and nephews myself, I cannot imagine the agony that my friend must be feeling right now or how her brother is coping with this situation.

Over the past 3 years there has been an ongoing custody battle for these four children.  The Italian courts observed, tested and documented their mother, and concluded that she was unfit to parent and therefore, granted full custody the their father.  In fact the Italian authorities were investigating her for child abuse when she fled and it is believed that she may be sedating the eldest of the four, who is 14 years old, evidence of the drug was found in her home after she left.  Needless to say these children are not safe with their own mother. And if she is capable of kidnapping and sedation, who knows what else she may be capable of?

She has taken these children from any kind of stability that may have had here in Florence.  Away from their schools, their friends, their aunts and uncles and most importantly their father who has done everything he can to protect them.  She fled to Russia where she has citizenship but no family. She did most of her growing up in the US, attended American university and graduate school. These kids have been completely uprooted from their lives and taken away from the people who love and care for them.

There are two important questions to ask here.  How in the world did this woman manage to get 4 children out of the country? Especially since there is a law in Italy that states that a parent must have written permission from the other parent to leave the country with the children. And not only that but it is their father who has full guardianship of these kids. It is even known that the youngest who is only 5 years old, does not even have a passport.  Who in the world let her get on an airplane?  Second question is why, if the Italian courts knew that she was potentially dangerous to her own children would they allow unsupervised visits?

She has fabricated a story in Russia that she and her children are the victims of physical abuse by their father. A story that was discredited here in Italy a long time ago and there is even proof of these false accusations, including doctors from the local hospital where she brought her oldest child 10 times claiming abuse by their father, the middle child 4 times and the youngest once, after many complete and thorough exams by these doctors, there has never been any evidence of abuse and they even contacted local authorities to report her strange behavior. Unfortunately their father was not aware of this until after she fled. Many others in Florence became suspicious of her claims as well and it is believed this one of the reasons she fled, the game was up and others were catching on so she has gone to try and convince the Russian people of these false claims. 

As a recent article in The Florentine points out:

"the psychologist appointed by the judge in the divorce case described Grin as ‘a person psychologically disturbed,' driven ‘by paranoid fantasies of being the object of "plots" and "persecutions" by the court and by the institutions.' The relationship with her children ‘is at a serious psycho-pathogenic risk."

Yet she was still allowed unsupervised visits. How is this possible?

While these children are in fact US citizens, the United States government is as good as powerless in Russia. The only right that they have is to check-up on these children and make sure that they are ok.  And for their father and their aunt and the rest of the family, this would be a huge relief to at least know that they are safe. Unfortunately however, they are no where to be found. The only address that the government has listed for her is being rented out and the tenants are paying a real estate agent and have no contact with her. The reason she brought them to Russia in the first place is because she knows the law there and she knows there isn't much that can be done and that there is no law regarding custody, she is their mother, that's all that the Russian government needs to know.

The challenge now is to get the Russian government to recognize her as a danger to these children and to recognize the Italian case against her and that the right place for these children to be is with their father who has shown them nothing but love and support and has done everything he can to keep them safe. He chooses to remain anonymous for their protection, after all they are helpless, innocent children who did not ask for any of this, and who, we are all sure, just want to be where they feel safe. With their daddy. 

Please take the time to read the article in The Florentine which off further details of the story. And for those of you who speak Italian you can read another article in La Republicca here.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 1, 2012: New article in the Huffington Post please take a moment to read this as well.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 22, 2012: The family and friends of the children here in Florence and the U.S have started a blog to try and connect with the kids and let them know how much they are missed. Please take a moment to read the letters that have been posted and have a look at the photos of them looking very happy! http://bringflorentinekidshome.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/we-miss-you-kids/

You can also see the US department of state page which details information regarding Russia and Parental child abduction to understand why the US is limited in their ability to act.

What is needed now are public letters of support, if you are willing to write please contact me here and I will send you all the information you need.

You can also show your support by 'liking' the facebook page Bring Florentine Children Home and following the family's blog.

Please take a moment and watch this Italian news segment (subtitled in English) and leave your comments!!!!   

What continues to trouble me is that it seems that the authorities of any of the countries involved are not thinking about what is best for the children.  Their mother has been determined unfit and dangerous, why is no one stepping in? Immediately. How much more proof is needed? How many more lies and contradictions do we need to hear from her before these kids are protected? How many  more testimonies to her unstable character are necessary?


  1. That is awful. I hope the Children are okay.

  2. Thanks, we do too. Progress is being made.

  3. This is a travesty. How can the mother get the children out of the country w/o the father's consent? I'm hoping for a speedy resolution to this.

  4. That is a very good question, no one knows for sure, but it was certainly a failure on the part of the Italian customs agents and the social service system. It really is a terrible situation.

  5. Great post, but a difficult story. The entire city is up in arms about this. First, because the judge should have ordered protected visits and mandatory psychiatric counseling but instead allowed a mentally disturbed woman the freedom to do psychological damage to children. The court appointed psychological expert told the judge this and nothing was done to protect those poor children. This is unacceptable. Second, how did she get out of the EU with four children? I hope the investigation results get published and people are held accountable. We are all praying that these children come home soon. There are many people here who will help in whatever way needed to ensure the children are safe. I applaud you for sharing this post!

    1. Thank you for your comment Alexis. It is indeed a difficult story and you are absolutely right, its difficult to believe that they allowed unsupervised visits. Its very sad and I hope that for the sake of the children that this all ends soon and that they are brought home where they belong. I will definitely be posting when that happens. Thanks for reading.

  6. I just wrote about this situation as well.


  7. Thanks for posting your link Harris, great article. Let's hope that light will finally be shed on this situation and these kids can finally come home.

  8. I will add you link to the post as well.

    1. My thoughts are with this father and the four kids. My own son was abducted from Australia to Europe and was forced into hiding for almost three years before being located by Interpol. People often told me he would be safe because he was with his mother but there have been many cases where abducting parents (mothers & fathers) have ended the lives of their own children because of their delusional beliefs. Then there is the emotional damage these kids suffer at the hands of the abducting parent.

      Given the presence of official court documents that question the abducting mother's mental state in this particular case, the Russian authorities must act to firstly remove these children from the abducting parent to reduce the risk the mother poses to them. They must then re-establish the relationship between the kids & their father before finding a way to return them to Italy whether or not Russia was a signatory to The Hague Convention at the time of the abduction.

      Kind Regards

    2. Thank you for your comment Ken, I am very sorry to hear hear about your situation, but glad to know it turned out for the best. That certainly gives hope to this story. And you are absolutely right, the people who are suffering the most in this situation are the children and it certainly does not end when they are brought home. We hope that Russia will make the necessary efforts to get these kids back home safely.

      All the best to you and your son.

  9. Sara,
    Ken is a hero for what he accomplished, and his boy is lucky to have him as father!
    The family is encouraged by Ken's persistence (and thanks him for his thoughts), cycling through Europe as he did to draw attention to the dangers of child abduction.
    Ken is absolutely right. There is an interesting (and sad) legal blog I just read which talks about Marianne Grin but also the terrible story of Elke Mellersh who like Grin was found to be mentally unstable and took the lives of her two children.

  10. Max Troitsky, a Russian-speaking US Citizen from Pennsylvania is in a sad situation. His estranged wife ( Anna Troitsky a.k.a. Anna Demyanyuk ), a US-Russian dual citizen illegally abducted their US-born US-citizen toddler daughter Julie Troitsky in late November 2011, against the US Court Order, and all the details of this bizarre and unfortunate case are here:

    and on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HelpBringJulieHome
    and on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BringJulieHome

    Thank you for the help, leads and following of this case...

  11. Russia needs to honor the Hague International Convention Against Child Abduction and return the children to their legal home in Italy. I hope it happens soon.

  12. Sara, I'm glad that your blog on this matter is high up on the google list and that people are bringing it up in the media. I'm hoping to help this family as much as possible until the kids are home safe where they belong.

  13. Beyond the obvious issue of illegally taking children that Marianne Grin had no right to take, I ask myself, why when women are trying hard to get out of Russia and get to the west for a better life... this woman would actually run TO Russia??? What the heck was she thinking! There is no future in Russia for children, that is an additional terrible thing to do to these poor children. If justice is served, the children will be found and brought home to their father in Italy where they legally belong, and Grin will be stuck in Russia! Actually Russia still has mental institutions and they are well used!


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