How did it come about that Mija ended up in Slovakia and what did you go through during the three years that you were apart? Did you have any contact with her during this time?
Well, my wife and Mija go every year for 2-3 weeks to have a holiday in Slovakia with my wife’s family who live in Slovakia. 23 November 2012, they flew out of Port Elizabeth like nothing happened and were supposed to come back 24 January 2013. They never returned as planned. I then instituted a Hague Convention court actions to get at first both of them back, but after my wife tried to get sole custody in Slovakia behind my back, then I changed it to just the return of Mija. For 3 1/2 years I won each and every court action with regards to the Hague Convention return order of Mija, but neither the mother nor the Slovakian government adhere to the international court ruling. I missed my little girl so much that I flew over to visit her twice year (one of them being over her birthday in 25 August) and I forced the mother via a court order for telephonic and three times a week Skype contact. I tried my level best to not loose contact with Mija.
What did it mean to you when you became a father? Tell us a bit about your little girl and what it has been like witnessing her growing up?
Well, she is my second daughter, but the feeling of watching her be born never grows old. It was magical to see another human-bean I created take life again. I love both my girls and they make my world go around. Both girls started walking at 8 months and both spoke before their times. My eldest Mikaila is more sporty and Mija is more cultural so I got the best of both worlds when they grew up.
What prompted you to travel to Slovakia to fetch Mija and what was involved in this?
The death of my ex wife in April 2016. Now Mija should of automatically have come to me but somehow via the Slovakian courts the Slovakian grandparents were keeping her away from me. Even contact with Mija after the death was nil and everything changed without any positive outlook for the future. So with this, the help of the South African Department of Justice, my attorneys in South Africa and Slovakia, and my very good friends who had a body guarding firm, we decided that enough is enough and I wanted my daughter home with me and Mikaila. We planned for 2 weeks the snatching and then we did it.
Michael made an effort to visit his daughter, Mija twice a year during the
time she was living in Slovakia.
What went through your mind the day you were to see (and reclaim) your daughter?
I was very excited and scared at the same time. I was very fortunate to have Mikaila with me as she would calm Mija down once we snatched her as she was taught by the grandparents to fight me whenever I would appear. Once we had her it was A OK and the tears of joy amongst us three were pouring with happiness and love.
What was the reunion like?
Amazing. As I said before we could not contain ourselves and while one of my body guard friends was driving us to the Hungary border we were playing and catching up. This was like to best early birthday and Christmas present together.
The family are overjoyed to be back together again.
You went through a bit of an ordeal trying to get Mija back to South Africa, tell us a bit about this?
Well, firstly I was put onto the Interpol Redlist and also the search warrant for Mija was very scary. Our first major obstacle was the fact that Mija still had a valid RSA passport in circulation and thus the SA embassy in Vienna could not help us with the Emergency Travel Document for Mija. So we had to go on the run for a few days and when I saw Mija and my face planted all over Austrian, Czech and Slovakian Television, I then was scared for the safety of Mikaila. With the help of a Czech Family and good friends of my family we somehow got her out of Europe before anyone realised that she was with us and helped in the snatching. Then we had troubles with the SA embassy in Prague as they now also would not issue a ETD as there was a court order in place giving the Slovakian Grandmother temporary custody. This was crazy as I divorced my wife in SA with sole custody rights on 6 May 2015. How could the Slovakian courts now go against this ruling and their first ever court ruling that Slovakia had no jurisdiction over custody battles over Mija when my wife tried to get sole custody behind my back in Slovakia.
Well after 5 weeks on the run in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic, we eventually won the court battles over the temporary custody court order, cleared my name at Interpol and cleared Mija’s name with local police and the SHengen states, we went home to South Africa together, reunited with Mikaila and now one big happy family.
What has it been like for Mija returning to South Africa and her home with you?
Of course it is not easy at first but once all three of us get to know each other and how each other works, as like any family, we can conquer anything together. Mija is very head strong and this is what I love about her. She is a mini me.
What challenges face Mija at this time, how is she doing integrating back into school, is language a factor?
Challenges are reading and writing as the Slovakian alphabet is very different to the English one. But I have enrolled her for 80 classes at a private language school and then she has now started Primary School at a very good school around the corner from us being Summerwood Primary School. She is busy just attending grade 3 classes for the meantime as she has already passed grade 3 in Slovakia. She will be fully enrolled at Summerwood as a grade 4 pupil next year January 2017.
Michael has enrolled Mija in English lessons to help her adjust back to schooling in
South Africa and she will be attending Summerwood Primary in 2017.
How are you able to support her at this time?
I am always there for her. I own my own business so therefore time is no obstacle for me with regards to her needs. I have also employed an Au Pair to help out with food, house work, baby sitting and homework. Mija makes my world go around an together with Mikaila I could not have asked for better daughter. Mija does Hip Hop Dancing, Ballet, Swimming and Gymnastics as extra mural activities and I am there for every session. Would not miss any for the world.
What does it mean to you having her back?
My life is whole again and I am the happiest father in the world. I have both my girls with me and nothing is going to break us apart again. I will put my life on the line for this to continue.
What does the future hold for your family?
Well, Mikaila is a first year Journalism student at NMMU, and with Mija we will all grow old together with good solid family ethics which they in turn will spread to their extended families oneway or another. I will be a very proud grandfather oneway.
What are your hopes and dreams for your daughter?
That they both become successful and happy with their chosen paths. They must just make the right decisions and learn from their mistakes. Just make daddy proud oneway or another.
Michael says that his life is whole again and he is the happiest father in the world.