A desperate American father tries to rescue his two-year-old son from war-ravaged Ukraine.
Cesar Quintana, 35, said young Alexander’s mother kidnapped him from her home in Southern California and fled to Ukraine in 2020 before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the country.
“I’m willing to do anything and everything,” Quintana told The Associated Press. “I just want my son to come back.”
Quintana has not seen Alexander since her last FaceTimed on March 2, six days after Russia invaded.
His son lived with his mother in his grandmother’s house in the besieged city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, where thousands of deaths are feared.
Quintana had traveled to Ukraine in December to try and secure his son’s return. Now back in the US, he has lost contact with the child and his relatives and the distraught father said he plans to buy a plane ticket to Poland next week and may attempt to cross the border into Ukraine.
“I’m not really sure what I’m going to do, but I just want to be around if there’s an opportunity for him to leave the country,” he said.
He said he sent money for supplies to his estranged wife Antonina Aslanova, but hasn’t heard anything yet.
Alexander was arrested in December 2020 when Quintana and Aslanova were in the midst of a divorce, according to a letter from Orange County Assistant District Attorney Tamara Jacobs to Ukrainian officials.
Quintana was awarded sole custody of the child after Aslanova was arrested for drunk driving.
Quintana told the AP he allowed his wife to visit Alexander at home while he was recovering from gallbladder surgery. One afternoon he woke up to find that Aslanova and Alexander were gone.
He texted Aslanova telling him they just ran into the store. Quintana called police, who told him the next day that she and Alexander had boarded a flight to Turkey and then Ukraine, according to prosecutors, who charged her with child abduction.
In March 2021, a California family judge ordered Alexander returned to his father, but the child’s mother said she had no plans to return to the States.
Increasingly desperate, Quintana traveled to Ukraine and hired a lawyer to bring Alexander back. He was allowed to visit the boy in Mariupol.
After much persuasion, in November Aslanova told Quintana by phone that her mother would take Alexander to his hotel in Mariupol and return to America with him. She also agreed to return with him and face her legal troubles in California.
When Quintana and the boy got off in a car and headed to Kyiv, they were stopped twice by police during their 14-hour drive, and authorities allowed them to continue but confiscated their American passports.
Back at the embassy to get new passports, Quintana said officials told him he needed more than a preliminary custody warrant to get the boy issued a passport. Quintana wrote to the family court in California to request an order for the document, writing that he feared a Russian invasion.
“If this happens, I fear that Alexander and I will not be safe and American flights to Ukraine will be canceled indefinitely,” Quintana wrote. An order was placed and the passport issued.
Quintana spent Christmas with his son and planned to return to America before 2022. Aslanova, with whom he was in contact, asked him not to leave her.
However, Aslanova’s mother didn’t want the boy to leave and filed a complaint against Quintana with the Mariupol police, he said. She was with the police when he and Alexander were stopped at Kyiv airport in December.
He agreed to hand over his son under threat of arrest after Alexander got upset because he didn’t want to put more pressure on the boy, he said.
The Quintana police document was issued, which is in Ukrainian and alleges Quintana took his son from his hotel in Mariupol in November without the permission of the child’s mother, prompting an investigation, according to an AP translation.
As he turned his son over, Quintana said he kissed him and told him, “Bye for now son, but I’m not giving up. I will take you home.”
Quintana said his attorney told him the police document was nothing more than an excuse to prevent Alexander from leaving. Since the outbreak of war, the lawyer has been fighting the Russians in the military.
An international hearing on parental child abduction scheduled for February has been postponed to March.
With postal wires
https://nypost.com/2022/03/19/us-father-desperate-to-have-2-year-old-son-returned-from-ukraine/ US father wants to bring back desperate 2-year-old son from Ukraine