Lifetime’s ‘Stolen by Their Father’ is a heartwrenching tale of a mother’s fierce fight for getting back her missing daughters. Directed by Simone Stock, the thriller drama movie revolves around Lizbeth Meredith, a young single mother of two daughters named Meredith and Marianthi. One day, when the girls don’t return from a visit to their father, a frantic Lizbeth soon realizes that something is very wrong. Thus begins the most horrible nightmare of her life, when she discovers that her ex-spouse has kidnapped them and fled to his native country Greece.
Lizbeth then begins the daunting process of getting back her daughters and exhibits exemplary courage and resilience while feeling alienated in a foreign land. The extraordinary narrative and compelling performances of the cast members make the audience relate to the protagonist’s experience as well as be inspired by it. Moreover, one can’t help but wonder if ‘Stolen by Their Father’ depicts an actual incident. If you are curious to know that as well, we’ve got your back. Let’s dive in!
Is Stolen by Their Father a True Story?
Yes, ‘Stolen by Their Father’ is based on a true story. It is adapted from ‘Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters,’ the award-winning memoir of Lizbeth Meredith. The book recounts the harrowing experience Lizbeth had to endure back in 1994, when her ex-husband Grigorios Basdaras took away their young daughters — Meredith and Marianthi — from Anchorage, Alaska, and absconded to Greece.
Back in the 80s, Grigorios, a Greek with US citizenship, and Lizbeth Meredith immediately fell in love after they met. On November 23, 1985, the pair got married in Anchorage, Alaska. However, things took an ugly turn when Grigorios began abusing Lizbeth, and she was compelled to escape with their two daughters to a women’s shelter in 1990. On August 14, 1991, the marriage was dissolved. While both parents shared the legal custody of the girls, the physical custody was granted solely to the mother by the State of Alaska.
Meredith, then-4, and Marianthi, then-6, visited their father every week as part of the custodial agreement. On March 13, 1994, both girls left with their father, as usual, and were to be picked up by Lizbeth from their daycare two days later. But on March 15, 1994, when they were not dropped at the facility by Grigorios, Lizbeth began to worry. To her dismay, she was informed by the police that her ex-husband had allegedly flown out of the USA with their daughters two days ago. He had taken the girls with him to his native country Greece.
Thus began Lizbeth’s journey of bringing Meredith and Marianthi back to Anchorage safely. Even after two months since the girls went missing, the State police department failed to add their information into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, as stated by the author in her memoir. Lizbeth then approached a local newspaper, and they published her story, which helped her gain massive support from her community in the form of fundraisers and letters to the White House.
With financial assistance and a White House visit, Lizbeth was finally able to travel to Greece to begin looking for her daughters. She hired a private investigator and was able to locate Grigorios and the girls. After a lot of delay in terms of legal procedures, on December 28, 1994, the Greek courts acknowledged the American custody order and permitted Lizbeth to take Meredith and Marianthi back. However, when Grigorios got to know of it before the court’s order was enforced, he quickly took the girls and went into hiding. A dejected Lizbeth then returned to her country without her daughters.
Lizbeth got arrested on her second trip to Greece the following year due to legal complications. In a horrible turn of events, on May 20, 1996, the Greek courts reversed their previous judgment and temporarily granted the girls’ custody to Grigorios. Lizbeth discovered that he had filed a petition to prove her an unsuitable mother and hence the decision changed. Later, after a lot of push and pull with the government officials and legal bodies and with some support from authorities, Lizbeth finally gained rightful custody of Meredith and Marianthi.
Lizbeth reunited with her daughters and got them back to Alaska, more than two years after being taken to Greece. Lizbeth’s struggles didn’t immediately end, as, by the time Meredith and Marianthi returned to their mother, they had lost their English-speaking skills after being accustomed to the Greek language and schooling for more than two years. It took them a lot of time to adapt back to the environment of Anchorage and numerous years to heal from their trauma. Today, both of them are thriving in their 30s, having graduated from college and pursuing successful careers.
On the other hand, Lizbeth went on to achieve her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and has dedicated her life to working with at-risk youth and domestic abuse survivors. In 2016, she published her memoir, which has touched the hearts of several readers globally. Eventually, Lizbeth gave the rights of the book to the makers of ‘Stolen by Their Father’ so that her story could reach more audiences and help victims of such crimes find a voice.
Elizabeth Smart, one of the executive producers of the movie, is a survivor of abduction and an activist for missing persons and child sexual abuse prevention. She found Lizbeth’s experience exceptional and brave, which makes the movie even more relevant for women around the world. Having said that, Lizbeth did share in an interview that some characters and incidents from her memoir had to be slightly tweaked to fit the cinematic perspective. Therefore, to reiterate, ‘Stolen by Their Father’ is an almost exact retelling of true events, with a touch of fiction and an impactful message.