Hayden Panettiere says sending her daughter to Ukraine permanently while she was in treatment for alcoholism 'wasn't fully my decision': 'I thought she was going over to visit'

Hayden Panettiere.Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Hayden Panettiere.Roy Rochlin/Getty Images  
  • Hayden Panettiere said that it wasn't "fully" her choice to send her daughter to Ukraine in 2018.

  • She said after she did, Wladimir Klitschko sent papers to get custody of their daughter.

  • She said it can be "terrifying to talk about" because of the Klitschko family's power in Ukraine.

Hayden Panettiere spoke at length about her daughter Kaya's custody situation on Wednesday's episode of "Red Table Talk" with Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield Norris, and their guest co-host Kelly Osbourne.

When asked about the custody arrangement - Kaya's father Wladimir Klitschko currently has custody of the 7-year-old - Panettiere said "it wasn't fully my decision" to send her daughter Kaya to Ukraine permanently in 2018. The actor said she was in treatment for alcoholism at the time.

"I didn't even know it was happening until she was already over there," the "Heroes" star said.

She added that while she initially didn't have a conversation with Klitschko about a custody agreement and visitation plan for then-3-year-old Kaya, she would have told him it "makes sense" for him to look after their daughter while Panettiere worked toward sobriety.

But she said she would have assumed that once things were better, the agreement could change.

During the conversation, which starts around the 21-minute mark of the episode, Panettiere implied that she signed papers to give Klitschko "full custody" of Kaya without talking about it first, which she called "heartbreaking."

"I was going to go work on myself and I was going to get better," she explained, saying that she had hoped that once that happened, Kaya could come back to the US to spend time with her.

"But that didn't happen. I thought she was going over to visit him like she always did," the actor continued, saying that they previously had an agreement that Kaya went back and forth between Nashville, where Panettiere was based, and Ukraine. "And then once she was over there ... it was immediately, 'I want full custody of her,' which was a shock to me."

Panettiere called Klitschko a "fantastic father" but said, "kids need their moms" as they get older.

Hayden Panettiere emmys
Hayden Panettiere emmys  

"I had never endangered her," she said, noting that she didn't think she'd done anything around Kaya that would have caused any authorities in the US to take Kaya from her. "It never would have happened."

She said that after Klitschko got full custody of Kaya in Ukraine, she had to go back to treatment "several times."

"He wasn't around to see the kind of mom I was," she said. "And had he been, maybe it would have been different."

Panettiere said that she hopes the custody agreement does change one day. She told the cohosts that it's always been "very terrifying to talk about" because Klitschko is a former professional Ukrainian boxer and his brother Vitali Klitschko is the current mayor of the city of Kyiv, so the family has a lot of power there.

Hayden Panettiere and Wladimir Klitschko
Hayden Panettiere and Wladimir Klitschko  

Though Panettiere continually said Klitschko is a good father, the actor said her daughter has become very "stoic." She said that Kaya has also had to learn about the war in Ukraine because though she now lives elsewhere for her safety, her dad and uncle are fighting on the front lines.

The "Nashville" star said that she was told Kaya began asking other women if she can "call them mommy," which  Panettiere described as a "cry for help" and a "trauma reaction."

"My breath hitched and my heart stopped," Panettiere said of her response when Klitschko told her.

She said she wishes that Klitschko would realize how much Kaya needs her mom and that he would allow her to visit the US. As of now, Panettiere is the one who goes to visit her daughter in Europe and she said she hasn't gotten "hints" that this agreement would change.

Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko
Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko  

Panettiere first spoke about having alcoholism to People reporter Aili Nahas in July. The actor said she's had an addiction to opioids and alcohol since she was a teenager and that it continued into adulthood.

In People's July article, Panettiere said that seeing Kaya going overseas was "the hardest thing I ever had to do."

"But I wanted to be a good mom to her - and sometimes that means letting them go," she added.


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