Waiting game
Vaneltsi hopes to have a reunion with her two children by Christmas

Darren Campbell
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 16/98) - This is shaping up to be a big week for Roberta Vaneltsi.

By today, Vaneltsi should know if her two children will be in Yellowknife for Christmas.

Vaneltsi hasn't seen her 12-year-old son Roman or nine-year-old daughter Petra in over a year.

However, that might change today, when her lawyer and the lawyer representing her estranged husband, Peter Cerny, meet to see whether the two children can visit Vaneltsi at Christmas time.

But she isn't holding her breath that the children will get to Yellowknife.

"I kind of figure he won't agree to it," said Vaneltsi. "He will put up an argument that the kids have to be back in school then."

It's been over four years now that Vaneltsi has been trying to get her children back to Canada. In July of 1994, Cerny took Roman and Petra to the Czech Republic. They haven't been back in the country since.

This situation started in 1994 when the NWT Supreme Court in Inuvik awarded Cerny and Vaneltsi joint custody of their children. The couple had ended an eight-year relationship.

But Cerny argued and won the right to have the custody split into one-year shifts. Four years after Cerny took the children, Vaneltsi is still waiting for her shift to start.

"It gets quite frustrating," said Vaneltsi. "I don't have too much hope but I have to keep trying."

In April of 1997, Vaneltsi, who is from Fort McPherson but now lives in Yellowknife, took her case to the courts in the Czech Republic.

The trip didn't produce much in the way of results though. The judge there even awarded Cerny sole custody of the children, adding that a move to Canada would upset and confuse the children.

Because of that ruling, Vaneltsi lost her right to have custody of the children for a one-year shift. Under Czech law, Vaneltsi said the parent who has sole custody can set what is appropriate visitation rights.

She said she tried to make arrangements for the children to visit her in the summer of 1997 but Cerny nixed that plan.

"He said they (the children) were too busy and they could not travel because they're too young," said Vaneltsi.

Cerny has agreed to let her see Roman and Petra in the Czech Republic. But she said the children want to see her, their grandparents, her commonlaw husband, David Wladyka, and their son as well. That's too expensive, which is why she wants Roman and Petra to come to Yellowknife.

Even if they do make it to Yellowknife for Christmas holidays, Vaneltsi will only have them for two or three weeks.

And that is hardly the year she originally thought she would get in 1994.