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Imprisoned Fresno Woman Released From Russia Same Day as Griner



Fresno resident Sarah Krivanek, 46, was imprisoned for about 11 months in a Russian penal colony. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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A Fresno woman was released by Russian authorities on Thursday — the same day American basketball star Brittney Griner was freed from the country.

While the Biden administration negotiated the swap of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner, the safe return of Fresno resident Sarah Krivanek didn’t involve a prisoner swap, NBC Bay Area reported.

Krivanek’s friend Anita Martinez has led the effort to bring her back from Russia, where she was teaching English before allegedly being involved in a domestic violence situation. Told by Russian authorities not to leave the country, the 46-year-old Krivanek was arrested at an airport in Moscow, according to People magazine.

Krivanek arrived back home in Fresno on Friday.

Horrid Conditions at Russian Penal Colony

Before getting on a plane to exit Russia last week, Krivanek told People during a video that she endured “Sodom and Gomorrah” conditions in a Russian penal colony,

The remote labor camp “was the equivalent of going to hell with the devil himself,” Krivanek told the publication.

Martinez organized a GoFundMe page to help bring Krivank home. On it, Martinez wrote:

“I have been advocating for my friend Sarah Krivanek since her incarceration in December 2021. She was involved in a domestic violence incident where she was beaten severely by a male roommate, and in an attempt to defend herself, she pulled a knife and cut him on his nose. The police were called, and Sarah was the only one arrested. She was out on bail and went to the U.S. Embassy for advice; they arranged for her to leave the country, this was just before the war with Ukraine started, and they were urging American citizens to leave Russia. Once at the airport, Sarah was detained and subsequently arrested for attempting to leave the country. She was later sentenced to 15 months in a women’s labor camp where she lived under horrible conditions and received little to no medical care or basic supplies and food until we were able to locate her and have supplies delivered through a Russian Human Rights organization.”

Martinez said that Krivanek was released from prison on Nov. 7, but was then sent to an interim holding facility.


Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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