The plight of a Greek mother whose estranged husband abducted their children and brought them to Largo last year has prompted an appeal from Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.
In a letter Tuesday, Nelson urged Greece's ambassador to the United States to "do everything in your power" to reunite Sofia Dionysopoulou with her daughter, Kleopatra, and son, Yiannis.
"And please inform Prime Minister (George) Papandreou that the United States stands ready to assist your government in any way possible," Nelson wrote.
A St. Petersburg Times story on Sunday described how Constantinos Papadoulis, a former university professor, snatched the children in April in violation of a Greek court order that gave full custody of them to his estranged wife pending finalization of their divorce. Dionysopoulou alleged that Papadoulis beat the children and slept nude with his daughter.
Through contacts in Tampa Bay's Greek community, Papadoulis and the children found an apartment in Largo. They had been in Florida just a few weeks when someone recognized the kids as those featured on a Greek missing-persons show, and contacted their mother.
With the pro bono help of Tampa's Holland & Knight law firm, Dionysopoulou began proceedings under the international Hague Convention to get her children back. In December, she flew to Tampa, where a federal judge ordered that the kids be removed from Papadoulis and returned to Greece.
Mother and children flew home to Athens on New Year's Eve. But on March 7, Dionysopoulou says, her estranged husband turned up in Greece and grabbed the children again. She hasn't seen them since, and their whereabouts are unknown.
"We believe (Papadoulis) won't return to the United States, but fear he will instead relocate to a country that is not a party to the Hague Convention," Nelson wrote. "Meantime, many in the large Greek and Greek-American community in Florida's Tampa Bay area are greatly concerned for the welfare of nine-year-old Kleopatra and 11-year-old Yiannis."
Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at [email protected]