Jewish Telegraph 08.11.2013

Mum’s lost kids’ agony

By Doreen Wachmann

A HEARTBROKEN mother has told the Jewish Telegraph of the agony of losing her battle for custody of her four-year-old twins.

Beth Alexander described as “barbaric” an Austrian court ruling that her sons must stay in Vienna with her ex-husband.

But Manchester-born Beth said defiantly: “I will not give up.”

And the 29-year-old added: “I’m in utter disbelief. I really believed this time that my little boys would finally get justice.

“I know we will get there in the end – we just have to be more patient.

“In the meantime, it is the children who pay the heaviest price and that hurts the most.”

Cambridge graduate Beth, whose marriage ended in acrimony, was speaking after losing her appeal against last summer’s Austrian court decision to grant custody to her Vienna society ex-husband Dr Michael Schlesinger.

The latest setback follows a two-year battle in the Austrian courts.

Her mother Sylvia Alexander, of Crumpsall, said: “I am speechless. It’s frightening. There are lots of injustices. But we just have to keep going to save the children.

“You cannot let injustice win. You hope that eventually good will overcome evil for the sake of the children.”

She added: “We never wanted it to be a battle. It’s about two children who deserve a decent upbringing.

“It is up to the courts to bring a solution in the best interests of the children. This has not happened in this case.”

Mrs Alexander said that when she visits her daughter in Vienna she finds it “heartbreaking” to see her grandchildren suffering.

Former Manchester King David High School Yavneh pupil Beth met Dr Schlesinger at a Chabad weekend in Paris seven years ago.

They were married soon afterwards and Beth gave up a postgraduate journalism course at New York’s Columbia University to settle in Vienna.

But the marriage went badly wrong, particularly after the birth of the twins two-and-a-half years into the marriage.

Claiming that Beth was mentally ill, Dr Schlesinger attempted to take the twins from her. But psychiatric reports denied that she had ever suffered from any mental illness.

Nevertheless, after lengthy court battles, an Austrian judge granted Dr Schlesinger full and immediate custody of the children.

Beth, a solicitor’s daughter, was afforded extremely limited access to her children. She is now forced to do part-time work in Vienna and can only visit her struggling sons for a few hours a week.

She even has to pay 44 euros for every visit because the judge ruled meetings have to happen in a “neutral place”.

Beth is denied overnight and weekend visits.

She claims that the courts have ignored reports that the twins are self-harming and that their development has been impaired by the trauma.

At four-and-a-half, traumatised Samuel and Benjamin are still not speaking.

But Beth, who has had massive support for an international Internet campaign, is vowing to continue fighting.

She is vowing to continue her legal battle to the Austrian Supreme Court and the Court of Human Rights.

Graham Stringer, Labour MP for Manchester’s Blackley and Broughton, said: “It’s dreadfully disappointing for Beth and the two children.

“I have no doubt about the justice of Beth’s case and I will continue to try and help her as much as I can.”

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