Real-Life ‘Taken’: Bro’s Daughter Stolen And Smuggled Out Of Country, Bro Hires Special Forces Soldier, Gets Her Back
Much like Liam Neeson in the film Taken, Craig Michael was not about to let his daughter, Crystal, spend the rest of her life in Poland after she had been stolen and then brought across international borders where Cyprus courts couldn’t touch her. Although in Crystal’s case she was taken out of the country by her mother, Craig’s ex-wife Marta Swinarska, the help from a professional “child recovery expert” was still required in order to ensure that Crystal was brought home safe and sound. According to Craig, the collapse of his marriage to Marta began when Marta’s grandfather died and she wanted to take their kids with her to Poland:
But in October 2011 Marta told him her grandfather had died and she wanted to go back to Poland.
Craig says: “I said it was ok, we’d sort out the flights and I’d stay to look after the kids. But she wanted to take them with her.
“The three of them had not long come back from a three-week holiday to Poland and I told her that I didn’t want Castalia missing any more school.”
Later, Craig was in the garden with Castalia when he came inside to find Marta and Crystal had vanished.
“I felt sick,” he recalls. “I was running around the house. Castalia was crying, asking where they were.
“I had no idea where they’d gone and couldn’t get hold of Marta.”(via)
While Craig contacted the police and had both Marta and Crystal placed on a “stop” list in order to keep Marta from leaving the country with Crystal, that didn’t stop her from trying to take Craig’s other daughter, Castalia, only one week later.
Lucky for Craig, however, Castalia’s school called when they saw Marta on school grounds and prevented his second daughter from being spirited off to Poland as well:
“But her school called me and kept her safe,” Craig says. “I got there just as Marta was leaving in a taxi.”
Craig hired a lawyer in Poland and applied for Crystal’s return through the Hague Convention, which aims to bring about the prompt return of a child abducted across international borders.
…But the Polish authorities said they were unable to find Crystal, leaving Craig distraught.
He says: “I’d spent all this money on lawyers, done everything by the book and had papers saying she should be returned but it seemed worthless.
“I was terrified that I would never see my daughter again.”
In desperation, he even travelled to Poland to try to find her himself. “I wandered the streets asking people if they’d seen her,” Craig says.(via)
It wasn’t until Craig’s mother passed along a story she’d read in the paper about how a company named “Child Abduction Recovery International” had been able to rescue a child from Laos that Craig decided to contact Adam Whittington, founder/chief executive of CARI, who agreed to help Craig get his daughter back. After travelling to Poland in January 2015 it took them only a couple of hours to find Crystal in her grandparent’s home in Opole, southern Poland.
But after 12 days of monitoring the family’s movements with Adam, the right moment came when Crystal returned from a trip out with her grandparents.
“We hid behind some bushes for 40 minutes,” Craig recalls. “It was minus 6 and absolutely freezing cold.
“We could see they were getting closer. I was so nervous. I had butterflies.”
But when they were finally reunited, Crystal didn’t recognise her father. “She didn’t know who I was and she was crying,” he says.
“She couldn’t speak English but I’d learnt the Polish word for ‘daddy’ and I just kept repeating it.
“She then realised who I was and started smiling. The bond was there immediately.”(via)
Now that Crystal is safely back home Craig says that the sisters are “inseparable,” and while Marta plead guilty to child abduction this past May she is still determined to get both of her children back, stating “I’m trying to get both of my children back. I’m going to do everything in front of the court and do it in a legal way.”