How will Brittney Grenier’s face readjust to life here? Former detainees provide evidence.

Suspension

Jessica Buchanan was on the elliptical machine in her gym when the televisions began alerting news that she had almost drowned out her “vicarious rest.” Brittney Griner, an American basketball star imprisoned in Russia, was emancipation in a prisoner exchange.

Buchanan does not know Greener. But the former aid worker, held hostage By pirates in Somalia for 93 days a decade ago, he was among the few who knew what Grenier would face: a joyful and wonderful reunion with loved ones. Onslaught of interview requests. They are the dawn of the great efforts made by people back home to secure her freedom. And in the end, the only realization that families leave a mark that never fades.

On Dec. 11, the Biden administration defended criticism of WNBA star Brittney Griner’s prisoner swap deal for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. (Video: The Washington Post)

“When you watch these things sway and time pass, you know exactly how it feels,” said Buchanan, 43, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. After someone is released, she added, “What happens is everyone thinks that everything is going to be okay from now on, because you’ve been through it; you’ve survived. It’s the honeymoon phase. What gets defined is what I call ‘survival’.” “.

The experience of Greiner, a celebrity whose arrest for cannabis possession became a landmark geopolitical confrontation, differs from that of many other Americans wrongfully imprisoned or held hostage abroad. But no matter the circumstances, she is now a member of a little club no one wants to join, say former detainees, bonded over the shared experience of stolen freedom and often turbulent acquaintance with it.

As this unusual community grew, some of its members formed advocacy organizations that supported the hostages and their families. Some have become foreign policy activists. Some retreat from the public eye. Some are particularly dependent on each other.

said Sam Goodwin, who was imprisoned in Syria For two months in 2019 I found fellowship with other ex-hostages.

Goodwin, 34, recently had lunch with Buchanan, whom he considers a friend. He also met in Washington this month with Jorge Toledo, One of six Americans and a permanent resident of the United States He was released from prison In Venezuela in October.

Goodwin was arrested by Syrian forces while near the end of an effort to visit every country in the world — Syria was No. 181 of 193. He spent one month in solitary confinement and was taken to court four times, he said. He had no idea anyone was helping him until, 62 days later, Lebanese mediators helped secure his release and he was flown to Beirut — confronted by his jubilant parents and a sea of ​​cameras.

One day later, Goodwin returned to his childhood bedroom in St. Louis. High school friends, who saw him on the news, stopped by. After two months of seeing so little concrete, the sight of the trees pleased him. He was consoled by the presence of his four siblings and his parents.

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Goodwin said the families deepened his perseverance and gratitude, and gave him a new focus on life: He is now a doctoral student studying the Syrian conflict at Johns Hopkins University, and is a member of the nonprofit. Help hostages around the world. He did not report his arrest in Syria on the first date. But she gushes upon meeting the other hostages.

“I feel quite comfortable asking them any questions,” Goodwin said, “because I come to her from a place where I had a similar experience: ‘Hey, I get it, I’m just curious: How was your food? “I get this question a lot, but I ask it coming from a different place.”

“What unites us is that we have a place to take our stories,” Buchanan said. “And we are no strangers to each other.”

From the archives: Navy SEALs rescue kidnapped aid worker Jessica Buchanan

Reentry was different from Buchanan, who was rescued by Navy SEALs. In poor health after months of sleeping in the desert without a prescription, she initially spent time in a military hospital in Italy, where she took part in a Department of Defense reintroduction program that she said “augmented” the process. She saw her husband for an hour on her first day at liberty, and saw a little longer on the second day, in protocol to avoid being drowned.

That support soon ended, and Buchanan was in Portland, Oregon, where her immediate family rented a house to escape the media crowds. The furnishings were great – she remembers refusing to walk just for the taste of sitting in a chair. She was also taken with the urge to run along the river, though she was never a runner, fascinated by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Then Buchanan unexpectedly became pregnant, a difficult experience that once again left her feeling hostage – this time, to her own body and the pregnancy-related illness. Anxiety dominated her life. She and her husband returned to their work in Nairobi, but she did not feel she could continue.

a decade later, Buchanan He is a public speaker, podcaster, publisher and volunteer with the organization US hostage. She still thinks daily about her captivity, which she said forced her to rebuild her identity.

She said, “To many of us who this happens to, we’ll say the same thing: You’re in these places because you’re doing something or working at something you really love.” “Now that you don’t have it, then who are you?”

Toledo, 61, at the beginning of that process. He spent nearly five years in captivity in Venezuela as an “Six will weatherA group of oil and gas executives were unjustly imprisoned by the Nicolás Maduro regime in 2017.

when five of them They were released in October As part of the prisoner exchange, they traveled to a military base in San Antonio where they reunited with their families, away from the public eye. Like Buchanan, Toledo spent 10 days in a military program designed to help detainees adjust, something he said was invaluable.

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An avid runner before his arrest, Toledo fantasized about running during his years in prison. At the base, he got up early and logged only a kilometer before his legs felt weak. But being outdoors, breathing fresh air, and seeing the sunrise was almost indescribable. “It was a transition from dream to reality,” he said. “Sometimes you ask yourself: ‘Is this real or is it just another dream?'” “

When he returned home to a suburb of Houston, the daily tasks were a source of stress. Driving for the first time, he said, “felt like skydiving”. Once a comforting ritual of memory, making paella felt like a challenge that stirred up feelings of insecurity. He finds himself using humor to avoid depressing others, joking to his friends that prison has changed him by teaching him new skills: cleaning toilets, doing laundry, and washing dishes.

Despite only being released for two months, Toledo said he decided to start defending other hostages. He has spoken with families of Americans held in Iran and China and met with former hostages and other detainees, including Goodwin. He hopes Grenier will also go through the re-entry program.

“Investing in these few days of your life will make this transition even better,” he said.

Fattal: I was imprisoned in Iran for two years. It taught me a lot about how to negotiate with Tehran.

Joshua Fattal, one of three Americans Those detained by the Iranian border guards As he wanders near the Iran-Iraq border in 2009, he describes his return after more than two years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison in categories.

Fattal said he had to get used to not being imprisoned—he remembers locking himself out of his apartment, because “I didn’t have to deal with keys for years—everyone had keys.” He had to adjust to being in his home country, where for some time he had expected strangers to speak a foreign language. Then there was the media landscape and the realization that his horrific personal experience had been swept away Great political novels.

Fattal, 40, has kept in touch with fellow prisoners, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, and has found some healing through writing. book With them. This allowed him to categorize his experiences as “stories” — the time he played volleyball with a guard, the day he was sentenced to eight years in prison, he said.

Recently, he said, he was able to revisit the feelings behind those stories, with the help of psychedelic-assisted therapy, in a “safe and meaningful way.”

Fattal, who is now the executive director of the Oregon Rural Livelihoods Center, said that although he is not actively associated with other former hostages, he feels a kinship with others who have been imprisoned.

Fattal, who recently met a man released from a US prison, said that although millions of people are incarcerated in the US, “it’s not an unknown for middle class, mainstream America.” “I don’t know his experience, but I know it’s a real thing that every day is different. … You can’t just sum it up as one thing.”

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Alex Drueke and Andy Tai Huynh gave occasional glimpses of their experience. The two Alabama veterans volunteered to fight in Ukraine after the Russian invasion. Their unit is ambushed on their first mission in eastern Ukraine, They previously told The Washington Post. Russian forces held them for 104 days, until their release in a prisoner exchange in September.

Men grew up in families. They approached their return in different ways, said Diana Shaw, Darwick’s aunt, who serves as a spokeswoman for both.

Huyn moved towards a normal life. Shaw said the 27-year-old is deep into wedding planning and got a job at the Walmart where his fiancée works, where the couple fixes up the house they’ll share. He is thinking of finishing his university studies.

Shaw said Drake, 40, who used to live in a trailer on the family’s land with his dog, Diesel, has now found more comfort in his mother’s house, where he struggles with irregular sleep and his overactive mind. He never ate fruit, Shaw said, he eats it a lot now, and he craves the vitamins he didn’t get on a diet of moldy bread and gravy at times.

Derwick, looking for ways to turn his experience into something tangible and positive, met with US military officials. He wants to help them better understand how prisoners of war should be treated can inform training. But Shaw said the two men, who suffered from malnutrition and malnutrition at the hands of their captors, were tired and irritable.

Shaw said the lessons of the long and winding road home may be beneficial for Greener, as another family learns to adjust to the new normal.

“You have limitations,” she said, “and you have to give yourself grace.”

Goodwin said he has little doubt that Greiner’s return — with all the resources at her disposal — will likely be very different from his return. But he realized from his relationships with other ex-prisoners that many of the elements were likely to be the same.

“It goes up when you get home, but how do you deal with it for the rest of your life?” Goodwin said. For him, he said, “the network really helps.”

Brittney Griner has been released from Russian prison

Last: WNBA star Brittney Grenier landed in the US at around 5:30 a.m. ET on Friday in San Antonio.

Prisoner trade deal: Her release was part of a prisoner exchange deal for the Russian gunsmith Viktor Bout. Nicknamed the “Dealer of Death”, Bout is a notorious arms dealer who has been in US custody since his arrest in Thailand in 2008. It is unclear why Moscow officials were. Eager to bring him home.

Why was Grenier arrested?: It was Griner prison in Russia Since February, when I was accused of entering the country with e-cigarette cartridges containing less than a gram of cannabis oil, which is illegal in the country.

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