Cherelle Griner: We Were 'Instantly Crying' on Reunion

She talks to 'People' about Brittney Griner's homecoming, their next steps
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2022 6:03 PM CST
Cherelle Griner: We Were 'Instantly Crying' on Reunion
This photo provided by the US Army shows WNBA star Brittney Griner, right, being greeted by wife Cherelle after arriving at Kelly Field in San Antonio following her release in a prisoner swap with Russia, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022.   (Miquel A. Negron/U.S. Army via AP)

Cherelle and Brittney Griner are spending the holidays together at their home in Arizona—and it's a moment that seemed impossibly distant at times during the 294 days Brittney Griner was detained in Russia. Cherelle Griner tells People that when she saw her wife's face through a window after her plane landed in San Antonio earlier this month, "We were both just instantly crying. I was standing there full of tears and someone ran over and handed me a handkerchief. I definitely needed it." She says that when they embraced, "I couldn't stop touching her face. I was like, 'Is this really you?' It did not feel real ... I was just holding on tight. I couldn't let her go." Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony after being arrested for possessing vape cartridges with hash oil, was freed as part of a prisoner swap.

Cherelle Griner says she had a lot of hopeless days while Brittney was in Russia, but "I would never completely give up hope on my wife's life." She says they are now "definitely trying to figure out how we blend back as one." We're taking it slow. We are not doing it all at once. But we are honoring the fact that I went through something that was really hard and difficult without BG's awareness, and vice versa," she tells People. "Day by day, we're just feeding a little bit to the soul and understanding each other's journey so we can actually start walking together." She says she's "doing amazing," but it's all been "very overwhelming."

The Griners are now enjoying their holiday traditions, including a cookie-baking contest, and looking ahead to what's in store next for both of them. Cherelle Griner, 30, finished law school while Brittney was in Russia and she says she plans to work as an advocate for wrongfully detained Americans around the world. "I realized how voiceless the issue is," she says. "I was 29 when Brittney was detained, and that's when I found out that it was even a real thing. That shouldn't be the case. I should have known about that before, which means we need more voices around this issue." Brittney Griner, who plans to return to the WNBA this season, said in a message to fans that she will use her platform to push for the return of Paul Whelan and other detained Americans. (Read more Brittney Griner stories.)

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