Toronto Sun

Tuesday, January 5, 1999

PM wades into custody fight

Wants boy back from Ukraine

By MARK DUNN, OTTAWA BUREAU

OTTAWA --  Yury Monczak has a powerful ally in his international battle to regain custody of his little boy: Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Monczak's six-year-old son Ivan was abducted in June by the boy's mother, who ignored a shared custody order imposed by a Canadian court and sneaked out of the country to Ukraine.

Now the Montreal cancer researcher hopes Chretien can succeed where two of his cabinet ministers have failed in winning the boy's return to Canada. Chretien is scheduled to visit Ukraine Jan. 27 and will raise the kidnapping with Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoitenko, an official in Chretien's office confirmed.

"I hope the prime minister can exert pressure," Monczak said yesterday in a telephone interview from Montreal, where the 38-year-old doctor works as an associate researcher at the Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital.

"I would just like to ask the prime minister to stand up in defence of a little six-year-old Canadian and bring him back to his dad.

"It's extremely difficult for me. The first few weeks it was a total nightmare. I was just hanging on by the skin of my teeth."

Monczak has tried just about every avenue to get his boy back, including putting his name on an international registry for missing children and lobbying Ottawa to intervene.

Justice Minister Anne McLellan and Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy have written asking Ukraine for Ivan's immediate return.

Both ministers indicated Ukraine has refused to respect Canadian laws by not sending the Canadian youngster home.

Police are treating the case as an abduction because Monczak's ex-wife, Miroslava Bartchouk, violated a Quebec Superior Court ruling which forbade anyone from taking Ivan out of Quebec. The court, which granted joint custody to both parents after a messy divorce that included false accusations of child abuse and wife battery, also ruled Ivan couldn't be put on either parent's passport without written permission of both.

The same court granted full custody to Monczak after the abduction and issued a writ of Habeas Corpus ordering that the child be brought back to Quebec.

Ivan, born in Montreal, was covertly whisked out of Canada, says his father.

Monczak says when he went to pick up his son this past summer for a vacation, his ex-wife and his son had vanished. Some of Ivan's toys, stuffed animals and crayon drawings were left behind.

It wasn't until Monczak received an anonymous phone call from Ukraine that he learned of Ivan's whereabouts.

Monczak says if Chretien can't get his son back, he'll have to go to Ukraine and plead his case before a foreign court.

"He is the biggest treasure I have," Monczak says of his blue-eyed boy . "He has been abducted. A great injustice has been made to him and I think my government, my prime minister, should stand up for this little boy."