The journey would take them to Indian reservations, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and finally to the Netherlands. There Holly and her children would become the first American family to ever be granted political asylum by the Dutch government on the grounds that they were fleeing domestic violence and that their safety could not be assured if they were to be returned to the United States.
Once in the Netherlands, Holly and children were first sent to live in a refugee center, where they lived shoulder to shoulder in dorm-like quarters with a ragged collection of truly desperate souls from third world countries like Sudan and Somalia. After two years of life among the refugees, Holly was granted full asylum and was sent to live in a housing project. She would live “below the radar” for the next 14 years. And then, after all those years, the FBI finally found them and came knocking on the door.
But by now, Holly’s American children were over 18, and had “aged out of the system”. The Child and Family Court system back home in Minnesota, the one that had once ordered the minor children to go to live full time with Holly’s abusive ex-husband, no longer had any jurisdiction over them. And when the FBI interviewed the children they said that in their eyes, their mother was a hero who had saved their lives. The FBI dropped the case.
Holly obtained attorney Alan Rosenfeld back in the states who eventually arranged a plea bargain on the remaining state charges against Holly. If she would come back and plead guilty to contempt of court, all other charges would be dismissed. Holly agreed, saying that she did indeed have contempt for the court that ordered her children to live a life of abuse.
Despite her life on the run, Holly Collins was somehow able to preserve an enormous volume of court transcripts, medical records, news accounts and correspondence that support her account, and the accounts of her children and give vivid detail to each twist and turn.
In the end, what could have been a crushing family tragedy becomes a happy story. Holly’s has been exonerated. Her children thrive. And they look forward to returning home, to America. But none of it happened by accident. This story ends happily because of the singular character of Holly Collins, protective mother, kidnapper, international fugitive, and ground breaking asylum seeker. It ends happily because of Holly, a woman who is described by her Dutch Asylum lawyer, as “a lioness.” And that she is.
Introduction written by Barry Nolan