As released WNBA star Brittney Griner visits a Texas military medical facility after nearly 10 months of imprisonment in Russia, Jorge Toledo — one of the “Citgo 6” — told CNN on Saturday how reintegration in society can take time and effort.
Toledo was released in October in a prisoner exchange after being detained while on business in Venezuela in 2017 with other oil and gas executives from the Citgo Corporation.
Two months after his release, Toledo described the challenges he faced in resuming a normal daily life – obstacles he hadn’t thought of when he was first released – and the advice he received. for Grinder.
“When I just landed in San Antonio…it felt good to taste freedom and the smell of freedom. And you never think of any aspect resulting from your captivity. But over time, as you start to move into normal life, you notice that reintegration is a challenge,” he told CNN’s Pamela Brown.
After spending five years in captivity, Toledo had to rebuild relationships with family members, including grandchildren who were just babies when he was detained.
Toledo also struggled with sleep and other health issues after returning to the United States, and saw minor daily tasks like driving become sources of anxiety.
His advice for Griner? “Take your time.”
“It is very important to feel the presence of your family, the love of your family and to let the family love you. Because the feeling of love is something so important,” he said.
After his release, Toledo said he was part of a program in San Antonio that involved six days with a group of psychologists. He says the program was “extremely important” to his reintegration and hopes Griner can take advantage of similar resources.
US authorities said their goal was to provide support for Griner.
“We are now working to ensure that the well-being of Brittney and her family is a priority and that all available assistance can be extended to them as appropriate,” the department’s senior deputy spokesperson said on Friday. of State, Vedant Patel, during a press conference.
Griner arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio early Friday, and officials have not said how long she will stay there.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN that Griner was “in good spirits” and “incredibly personable” after his release.
Griner was released as part of a prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout. Thursday’s swap, which took months to negotiate, marked the end of nearly 10 months of confinement after the basketball star was arrested for drug trafficking at a Russian airport in February and then sentenced to nine years in prison. jail.
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Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, released a statement on her Instagram page on Saturday, thanking people for their support.
“Yesterday my heart was healed thanks to the collective efforts of MANY! I am humbled by their hearts. Caring for another, a stranger for some, a friend for some, is humanity in its purest form! Griner’s wife wrote.
“As BG and I begin our journey to heal our minds, bodies and spirits, I personally wanted to say thank you to some of the hands; seen and invisible, it allowed me to see my wife again! his statement continued.
Griner’s friend, WNBA player Angel McCoughtry, said she knows Griner will need time and space, but thinks she will eventually return to the basketball court.
“We missed her last year. It wasn’t the same in the WNBA without her,” McCoughtry said. form and get back into rhythm, feel the American air again.I think she will perform, if I had to comment on that…I think she wants to come back and feel loved by the fans again.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said, “We all want to see her, but we’re going to give her time and space and have her evaluated medically, mentally, emotionally and physically.”
While many celebrate Griner’s return, the fate of another American inmate in Russia, Paul Whelan, remains unclear.
Whelan – an American, Irish, British and Canadian citizen – is currently imprisoned in a Russian penal colony after being arrested in December 2018 for espionage, which he has denied. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He, like Griner, had been declared wrongfully detained by US officials.