"They pulled the child, it screamed": the story of Ekaterina Velcheva, whose child was forcibly taken away from his father

"The child doesn't go outside during the day, he sits with the blinds and curtains down, at night they only let him out on the veranda. She doesn't communicate with any other children, she doesn't go to school," says Ekaterina

"I have not seen my daughter for almost two months. Unfortunately, I am restricted from seeing her - this has been imposed by her father, who, against the judge's orders, is detaining the child, hiding her, isolating her, alienating her from the mother, and in no way allowing even a telephone conversation."

This is what Ekaterina Velcheva, a former model and equestrian competitor, who since 2020 has been in a constant battle with her ex-partner and the father of her child, who for the second time took her child away from her by force, despite two court rulings accusing him of domestic violence, told the "Who's Talking?" programme on Darik Radio. All the institutions involved seem powerless to return a 6-year-old girl to her mother, who has custody.

The issue of domestic violence dominated public debate briefly over the summer, brought lawmakers back from recess to vote on emergency legislation, and seemed to fade away under the pressure of other issues. Sadly, however, cases of violence are not decreasing, and for some people they represent a daily battle.

"It's hard to share such personal things in public, but I don't see any other way to help my daughter. My child has witnessed countless times how her father beats me, swears, insults, threatens. She is very scared of this man but is currently kept locked in his house.

I communicate with several neighbours who watch the house - they tell me that the child does not go outside during the day, she sits with the blinds and curtains down, at night she is only allowed on the veranda. She does not communicate with any other children, she does not attend school. This picture does not pose any problem for the social workers, who say my child is very well," Ekaterina Velcheva said.

She told of the horror she, her father and 6-year-old daughter experienced on July 24: "I was afraid of A. K. from beating me up again, and whenever I went out in the morning, I called my father to accompany us. On the day in question, while dressing with the little one, we heard cries for help, went outside, and came upon a horrible sight - my father lying on the ground bloodied, and A. hitting him in the head with his fists and strangling him. The child saw, we were scared, we ran back to the apartment, but he saw us, chased us, hit me with his fist in the head, I fell to the ground. Two women appeared and rushed into the entrance. I thought they were going to help us, but they had come to kidnap my daughter. They pulled the child, she screamed, I tried to save her but he hit me again in the head with his fist. There was a random passerby who dialed 112. The policemen who came to the spot did not arrest the rapist who beat us up."

She explained that the child's father has the right to see him, but not whenever he wishes - this is regulated in a court act. "The problem here is that the police are not following the methodology of the Ministry of Interior in their commitment to take cognizance of the immediate protection orders and execute them as ordered by the court," Catherine said.

She said her complaints to the Ministry of Interior are sinking, disappearing, and there is no feedback on what is happening. She explained that the violence committed in the presence of the child is also not taken into account. There is also violence against the child - it was taken by coercion, by force.

The other party - the child's father - claims that he was assaulted by Ekaterina and her father. "How am I going to beat her, the wounds on her knees are from her kicking," he states. According to him, the child was not abducted. Besides, according to him, he did not beat them, they beat him. A. claims to have filed 15 domestic violence cases in the past three months.

"The kidnapping of the child is happening in front of my home - what he is doing in front of my home and what these two women are doing. The child has not been withheld from me, I have complied with the court order about his personal contacts. These were carried out with the help of a mobile children at risk team who picked up my daughter and handed her over to A. If the mobile team judged there was a risk to my child, they did not give him up. The last three times that A has had the right of access, the mobile team have refused to give him the child on the agreed day and time. The reason is that they talk to her privately and the child says that she does not want to go with her father and is afraid of him," Ekaterina said.

According to her, A. had been talking to and manipulating 6-year-old Maria for nearly a year, and the child had told social workers many times that he was making her lie.

One of the problems, she said, is that the directors of state institutions don't supervise their employees - they don't follow them through the work process and don't punish them in any way if they make mistakes.

"We are currently awaiting a bailiff to remove the child, but for that to happen, the 5th Precinct Neighbourhood Officer needs to serve a summons for voluntary surrender of a child. Until then, no action can be taken. All institutions must act together - this is the way to legally return the child to me," Ekaterina said.

"I have always obeyed the law and that is why I did not go to steal the child by force. I seek justice, the truth," she is adamant.

Ekaterina said that she was afraid for her life.

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