ALL UPDATES WILL BE POSTED AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST
Today I have had a guest write my blog post. Her name is Marla, and she is going through so much right now. And she needs your help. You see Marla lives here in my town, and her children live over 5000 miles across the world in Cyprus.
I first heard Marla's story when reading our local newspaper. As a mother myself I cannot imagine how heartwrenching it must be to know your kids are so far away from you and being mistreated and neglected. I've followed her updates during her trips to Cyprus and the times where her ex-husband has tried to hide her children, or have had people come after her to attack her. I've seen videos where you can tell that someone is feeding information to her children, teaching them to lash out at her and treat her horribly. I've heard the detailed descriptions of the living conditions these children face every day.
This is Marla's story, in her words. Below you will find links on how you can help her, a petition for the Cyprus court that she will take to them in a few short days, and links to the local newspaper articles that have also published her story. You will also find links for information related to spousal abuse, and how to get help if you are in a similar situation.
My name is Marla Theocharides and although I am divorced I have decided to keep my last name to eventually make it easier on the kids for the purpose of school teachers, school friends, and less explaining for my children. I have a 7 year old daughter named Katerina and my son Marcus is 3. I married my long time boyfriend from Arizona State University in 2005. He was getting his Master’s Degree at the time we met and had been living in the USA for 5 years. Charis was born and raised in a small country called Cyprus, it is located in the Mediterranean Sea just below Turkey, next to Israel and above Egypt.
Charis and I fell in love and had a strong relationship in the beginning. Together we made the decision to move to Indiana, where I was born and raised and where my entire family resides. We got married in 2005 at St. Patrick Church in South Bend, Indiana. We purchased our first home together and shortly after my daughter Katerina was born. After we had Marcus, my husband started complaining that he was having health problems. The doctors diagnosed him with anxiety and gave him medication but he refused to take it. Eventually he convinced me to go to Cyprus to spend some time with his family and stay in the flat that we owned in Cyprus. The timing was good because Marcus was 6 months old and I really wanted to be able to stay home and spend more time with my kids. So, I quit my job, packed our belongings and off we went to Cyprus.
The first three months went smoothly. My only complaint was that I did not have a car so I was stuck at home all of the time and this made it very difficult to get groceries with two small children and no car. After 3 months had passed my husband decided that we could get a car for me, so we did. Things went downhill from that time on. I later found evidence that Charis, my husband, and his mother knew that after you were in the country of Cyprus for 3 months you were automatically considered a full time resident. Then the abuse started. Charis would speak only Greek all of the time. I had no idea what was going on so I enrolled in Greek lessons. Greek is a very difficult language to learn but I was slowly learning. Charis would yell and scream at me all the time, stating that I was not allowed to leave the house and I was especially not allowed to talk to any men. He became jealous and very insecure. He started calling me names and spitting in my face in front of the kids. Soon it turned to physical violence.
The entire family had return plane tickets to go back to the USA in June 2010. I tried to leave with the children sooner because I was sleeping in the kids bedroom with the doors locked and my cell phone in my hand. I was living in fear. I asked my family to help, I called the US Embassy. The Embassy told me there was nothing they could do. Finally, I was allowed to leave with the kids on our return ticket in June. Charis would only allow me to leave if I promised that I was coming back to Cyprus, so we had to buy return tickets to Cyprus in order to leave. Charis was supposed to come with us but he refused.
When we got back in the USA, I filed for divorce and was granted full custody of both my children. In the meantime, Charis filed kidnapping charges against me and put a Red Notice on Interpol through the Cyprus government. (Later I found out this was done illegally) Charis threatened me that I would be arrested in the USA and put in jail. Charis and his mother came to the USA and took both kids back to Cyprus. I went to court in Cyprus and was told that my USA court order did not mean anything in Cyprus courts. I would have to start the custody process in Cyprus because the kids had been there for 3 months. I filed right away for custody. Two years later and I still have not had any court hearing in Cyprus, never allowed to present any evidence to court. I am told this is the normal process for Cyprus courts.
My son was taken when he was just 19 months old and my daughter was 5. I miss them every second of every day. I send them mail every week. I call and Skype according to court orders but they rarely answer the calls and when they do they are full of hate and anger. Their father has brainwashed them to hate the USA and hate their mother.
The number one question people always ask me is, why don’t you move to Cyprus? Well, this is a complex question with a complex answer. I don’t have a job there, the unemployment rate is 13% and I don’t speak the language. The cost of living is triple. I would have no friends and no family. Most importantly, I cannot live in Cyprus because I am not safe there. When I go to visit I am assaulted and put in jail. My ex and his family are constantly filing attempted kidnapping charges against me. Of course, they are always dropped and I am released.
I have managed to stay positive throughout the process. I do yoga, go to the gym, take hot baths, listen to music and go to counseling. I do everything in my power to stay focused and continue my fight to get my children home. I work full time to pay my attorney bills and child support. I know at the end of every day that I am doing everything in my power to bring my children home to a safe environment. Through all the chaos I have faith that my children will be home with me soon. I am supposed to have a final hearing next month in Cyprus. All prayers are appreciated. In the meantime I am saving money on my groceries with Crystal’s coupon tips! Keep it up girl…you rock! J
This process has cost me over $100,000.00 in attorney and travel expenses. If you wish to contribute you can make donations on the following site:
If you are not able to make a financial contribution you can still help this great cause by simply signing this petition. It will only take a minute of your time.
Here you can find the newspaper articles sharing Marla's story - http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/specialreports/sbt-marla-theocharides-fights-for-her-kids-20120312,0,2491800.special
If you are being abused or if you think you are in an abusive situation, please visit this website and call this number. They will provide you with more information to help you get to a safe place - http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/am-i-being-abused-2/
Thank you Marla for sharing your story with us today. Your strength and your courage are admirable and I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say that our hearts and our prayers are with you in this fight.
UPDATE: Marla's foundation now has a full website, as well as the facebook page. You can find her website here http://marlasfoundation.com/
Thank you to all who have signed the petition so far, it is so very much appreciated.
UPDATE 1/28/13: On 1/25 Marla received news that the welfare department in Cyprus has ruled to the courts that the children should continue to remain in Cyprus with Charis.
Directly from Marla's update is the email from her attorney:
"(1) today Gewrgia deposited her report to the Court which was not positive for us - she suggested the kids to stay in Cyprus and that the father should work so as to ensure your communication with the kids (which she suggested to be the most possible)
(2) She gave as reasons for this the following: the kids are fully adjusted in Cyprus/they receive adequate care in Cyprus and she does not suggest any change of environment for the kids at the present.
(3) The Court set the case for hearing for the 6/7/8 of March - she said that Gewrgia is a witness of the Court and will testify at the end and that we (the lawyers) can review the report of Gewrgia on the 30/1/13 at 08:30 at her office - copies of the report will be given to us when Gewrgia testifies.
(4) I was asked to state our position for the issue of the jurisdiction and I said that I will make a statement before the main hearing."
What makes no sense in all of this is the fact that Marla has reported the hard evidence of abuse and neglect of her and her children to the courts. She has videos of him assaulting her, of her children telling her they want to kill her (remember these kids we basically babies when they were taken, at that age they only know what they are taught) and US custody orders giving Marla custody of the children. She also has proof that Charis has kept the kids from her, is not allowing her the unsupervised visits that the courts granted her, and is not allowing them to speak with her via phone or skype. Yet the welfare department still reccommends they stay in Cyprus with Charis.
Our government NEEDS to act on this and STOP abandoning our left behind parents. If you haven't yet, please sign Marla's petition above. She needs to be taken seriously.