STARK COUNTY -- A local father is hopeful that he'll have a chance to reunite with his two daughters, after five years of separation.
"You have to be optimistic. It's been five years, and I'm closer now to getting them than I was a month ago. But you still have the hurdles, the obstacles," said Royce Sigler.
Royce Sigler of Perry Township, just returned from a trip to Sochi, Russia, where he met with local authorities including police, the mayor and child welfare agencies.
On May 29, 2008, Sigler's ex-wife picked up their two daughters for a three-day visitation but never returned.
When he and his ex-wife divorced in Texas, Sigler retained full custody of the girls, Tanya, now 11, and Ksenya, now 9.
But he's learned that custody only extended so far as the American boarders.
"[The Russian government] is not going to let a man, father or not, take two Russian girls," Sigler acknowledged.
After the disappearance, Sigler located his wife in her hometown of Sochi, but she refused to let him speak with their daughters over the phone, even though he called every day for over a year.
Attempts to bring Tanya and Ksenya back to the U.S. were futile.
But this past May, Sigler learned his ex-wife passed away of cancer and the Russian government would now acknowledge his custody of the girls.
With the support of St. George Orthodox Church in Canton, Sigler traveled to Sochi two weeks ago, on a mission to locate his children and hopefully bring them home.
A scheduled meeting on July 4 never happened though; the girls' grandmother, who'd learned Sigler was coming, never showed up.
A warrant in Russia is now out for her arrest.
"The people of Sochi have been great. The administration was great, the city, everybody. It's just the bureaucracy in Russia takes a while to turn," said Sigler.
After waiting and hoping to see his daughters after so many years, Sigler feels closer now to that moment than ever before.
He thinks it's only a matter of time before his daughters' grandmother turns herself into authorities, and realized the children need to be with their father.
Waiting back home in Perry is a new sister for the girls. Sigler and his wife, Daley, have a one-year-old daughter named Charlotte.
They've discussed how it would be for Tanya and Ksenya transitioning back to the states, and are prepared to welcome them home again.
"I'll be crying like crazy, I probably won't be able to talk to them for an hour. I just imagine them coming up and hugging my neck," Sigler said.
While in Sochi, the father visited his daughters' school where he learned how they were doing and saw a recent school picture of Ksenya.
"We spoke to the administrator and they said both girls are always clean, well dressed and well behaved. I heard they remember me, they love me. "
"It makes you happy, because for five years, what I've hung my hat on is the three months before they were taken, I told them every day, 'Your daddy loves you. no matter what anybody ever tells you, no matter what you ever hear. You know I love you, and don't forget that," Sigler said.