September 28, 2013

Mainer: 'A gulag in Russia is not what I bargained for'

The Islesboro wife of imprisoned Greenpeace captain Peter Willcox describes her ordeal.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Maggy and Peter Willcox on the day of their wedding, Feb. 23, 2013 on Isleboro. Peter Willcox is currently jailed in Russia after a protest last week near an offshore Russian oil platform was disrupted. He is captain of the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, and is being held for two months during a piracy investigation.

Provided photo

click image to enlarge

A Russian Coast guard officer is seen pointing a gun at a Greenpeace International activist as five activists attempt to climb the 'Prirazlomnaya,' an oil platform operated by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom in Russia's Pechora Sea. The activists were there to stop it from becoming the first to produce oil from the ice-filled waters of the Arctic.

Photo by Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace

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Over the course of 30 years, Maggy and Peter each had a family and later became single. They reconnected in Maine as he was delivering a boat, and they got married on Islesboro in February.

Peter Willcox still lives in Connecticut, to be close to his father, who's 92, and his youngest daughter, who's in college. But he lists Islesboro as home on his Facebook page.

"When I agreed to a long-distance relationship, a gulag in Russia was not what I bargained for,'" his wife said Friday.

But she knew her husband's calling.

A week before he left for the Arctic, she sat with him during a conference call as Greenpeace strategized, making sure legal teams were in place and people were designated to keep families informed.

Peter Willcox is an unassuming, almost self-deprecating man, but he is a strong and capable sea captain, his wife said.

"He's the kind of man that inspires confidence in his crew," she said. "He's very calm, incredibly capable. People feel their lives are safe in his hands."

As captain, Willcox could face more serious consequences than some of the others if he is charged under maritime law.

"With the talk about piracy thrown about, it was very disturbing because, in Russia, it carries a 10- to 15-year sentence, and that's very frightening," Maggy Willcox said.

She was comforted when Russian President Vladimir Putin said he does not believe that the protesters are pirates.

"I'm trying to be strong, but I tell you it's been hard, mostly because I haven't heard from him," she said. "Then I read he had, at gunpoint, refused to sail his occupied ship. I finally had to stop reading what was in the media because it was frightening me too badly."

Then she thinks of the wives on Islesboro at the turn of the century, waiting for their husbands' return from the sea.

"When I'm feeling wimpy, I starch my spine reminding myself what those women did," she said. "They went for months without even knowing their spouse was alive."

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

Peter Willcox
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Peter Willcox, the captain of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, is shown in a courtroom in Russia on Thursday. His wife lives in Islesboro.

The Associated Press / Efrem Lukatsky

  


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