Help return abducted children to their father, petition to Clinton asks

ROME (JTA) – A new petition urges the U.S. government to help find and return four children whose Jewish mother illegally abducted them from Italy to Russia, reportedly with the help of Chabad.


Launched over the weekend and addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the petition calls on the State Department to work with the Russian Foreign Minister to resolve the case.

In December 2010, after bitter divorce proceedings, an Italian court granted sole custody of the children to their father, an American lawyer based in Florence named Michael McIlwrath. According to court documents, the mother, Marianne Grin, who has dual Russian and American citizenship, had been found mentally unstable and psychologically unfit to care for the children.

During a court-approved vacation week with the children at the end of August 2011, Grin, who was affiliated with Chabad in Florence, illegally took the children from Italy to her native St. Petersburg where she initially placed them into Chabad-run institutions. In doing so she defied a court order specifically forbidding either parent to take the children out of Italy without the other parent’s consent.

Interviewed in St. Petersburg two months ago for an Italian television news report, Grin said she had taken the children out of Italy by car, using their Russian passports. News reports said Chabad in Florence and Venice had helped facilitate her plans.

Earlier last year, Grin had accused McIlwrath, who is not Jewish, of having been physically abusive to the children. She also claimed that the Italian court decision that had awarded him custody had been influenced by anti-Semitism. On the Italian TV news report, Grin refused to allow the children to view a video message from McIlwrath and said that she had the financial resources to take the children elsewhere to keep them away from their father.

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