WHEN Tracy Glover dropped her daughter at her dad’s house for a sleepover, she reassured herself by the thought it was only for one night.
But the 44-year-old mum, from Shipley, West Yorks, was horrified when she spoke to ex-partner David* the next day – and he revealed he’d flown their girl 1,000 miles away to the Czech Republic
Tracy’s horror grew when she realised Czech national David had the upper hand, because their daughter Sarah had spent most of her life in central Europe.
Now the mum, who at one point was separated from her daughter for 18 long months, is fighting a long battle to try and bring her 11-year-old home.
I’d always wanted to be a mum, but nothing had prepared me for the rush of love I felt when Sarah* was born in 2008.
My partner of four years, David, and I were smitten and Sarah’s birth completed our little family.
But over the next few months, things became tough for David. Originally from the Czech Republic, he was struggling to find work.
We were at our wits’ end and so later that year, we decided to move back to David’s hometown.
As we packed up our things, I thought it would be an adventure. I loved to travel and at first I loved our new home.
I was excited to celebrate Sarah’s dual heritage and I even managed to find some work teaching.
The three of us fell into a happy family routine and Sarah blossomed.
No longer the man I fell in love with, he became distant and cold.
By 2016, our relationship had hit rock bottom. And hundreds of miles away from home, I felt like there was no way out.
Trapped in a loveless relationship, in a foreign country, I’d never felt so alone.
We eventually split and, when my mum fell ill that year, I saw my chance to return to the UK.
“I have to be there for Mum,” I told David, and he agreed to come too.
After eight years in the Czech Republic, I was so glad to be home.
We moved in with my mum and I started reconnecting with friends and family.
I was convinced Sarah would have more opportunities here and I’d hoped the move would be a fresh start for me and David too.
But David became impossible to live with. Difficult and grumpy, he refused to embrace our new life in the UK.
Desperate not to disrupt Sarah’s family unit, we all continued to live together in my mum’s house.
It wasn’t long before my mum hit breaking point – and said he had to leave.
David agreed to stay in England, as long as he could see Sarah regularly. I agreed he would be involved as much as possible.
I was desperate for Sarah to experience the loving family unit she had grown used to. Like every doting mum, I wanted her to have the best of everything.
David rented a room in a shared house and, as he looked for work, we began getting on better.
Everything changed one day in November 2016, when I dropped Sarah off for a sleepover at her dad’s.
“Love you, see you tomorrow,” I said as I waved her off.
When David phoned me the next day, I assumed he was arranging the best time for me to collect Sarah. But what he said next made my blood run cold.
“I’ve gone to the Czech Republic – and I’ve taken Sarah with me,” he said flatly.
I was instantly plunged into my worst nightmare. My daughter had been abducted… by her own dad.
“You can’t just take her,” I stuttered, horrified.
I begged David to put Sarah on the phone, but he refused. “Please David, I just need to know she’s alright,” I said, my voice choked with tears.
Then he hung up, leaving me shocked and scared.
My next phone call was to the police – who joined forces with Interpol.
They discovered David had flown Sarah out of the UK on a secret Czech passport, which is why no-one had questioned him leaving the country.
I was gobsmacked. I never thought David could do such a thing.
He’d convinced me he was committed to a life in England, but had he been planning to steal our girl the whole time?
I was on tenterhooks, so when the police phoned to say they’d found Sarah safe and well, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
“Thank God,” I gasped. “Now when is she coming home?”
There was a silence on the end of the line for what felt like an eternity, before the officer spoke again.
“We can’t bring her home I’m afraid. There’s nothing we can do,” he said softly.
listened in stunned horror as he explained the Hague Convention.
It meant that because Sarah had spent most of her life in the Czech Republic, it was classed as her permanent residence.
And, in the eyes of the law, that was favoured over who her main caregiver was.
My world crumbled. My girl was gone – taken – and there was nothing I could do.
Desperate, I contacted the courts in the Czech Republic and demanded visitation.
It was a long, drawn out process – which took hours of translating, paperwork, and debating – but I finally was granted a court date.
I wept with relief when, after 18 agonising months, a judge agreed I could see Sarah during school holidays.
It would only be a temporary visit, but it was something.
It took months to set up flights and arrangements with David, but Sarah was so excited when I told her she was coming to visit.
In August 2018, Sarah finally arrived in the UK for her first visit since the day her daddy abducted her.
She’d grown so much in the 18 months we’d been apart, but she was still my little girl to me. “I love you so much,” I cried as I scooped her up in a hug.
I was terrified Sarah would no longer recognise me, or worse even remember me, but nothing had really changed between us.
Over the next six weeks, we had so much fun, but my heart sank when Sarah had to pack up her things for her return flight.
It was devastating as Sarah boarded the flight back to the Czech Republic, but this time, as I waved goodbye, I knew I’d see her again.
Now Sarah and I talk on the phone as much as possible, and we even got to spend our first Christmas together since she left in December last year.
It’s hard being so far apart, but Sarah knows the 1,000 miles between us does nothing to dim my love for her. I’m counting down the days until her next visit.
I can’t believe her dad stole her from me but I’m determined that one day, she’ll return to me for good.
And until that day, I’ll never stop fighting for her.