Volcano eruption in Iceland affects local teacher, fiance, and daughter

Wanda English Burnett

“I just want to go home,” sounds the same in all four languages Zoe Ketselidou speaks. She is one of thousands of stranded travelers after the volcanic eruption in Iceland on April 14 - just one day after she arrived in Cincinnati.

The Belgium resident came to the United States and more specifically Ripley County, last week to visit her fiance Bill Fogle, who teaches Spanish at Jac-Cen-Del High School.

“I only took off work four days,” she lamented as she waits for the skies to open.

Ketselidou is the senior administrator of IST operations with the European Commission. Her job regularly sees her using air travel, but she’s never - in nearly 20 years - experienced a delay quite like this one.

“I never imagined it when they were first talking about it,” Ketselidou told The Versailles Republican, speaking of when she first heard that the Eyjafjallajokull glacier had erupted, something that hasn’t happened in almost 200 years.

She was supposed to go home Sunday, April 18, but says her chances of getting out before Monday, April 26 are slim. She is thankful she is at the home of her fiance and not on the floor of an airport somewhere. That’s the upside, the two are able to spend a little more time together, something that’s important in a long distance relationship, such as theirs. Fogle visited her in January, and they plan to be together this summer.

Bringing only enough medicine and clothing for a few days poses somewhat of a problem, and Tuesday was one of her hardest days, as her youngest daughter, Anna, celebrated her 12th birthday without her mom. “It is so hard,” Ketselidou said with tears in her eyes. She said her oldest daughter, Christine, has a swimming competition on Saturday she’s hoping her brother can take her to.

Ketselidou explained that the European Commission has been great and with so many employees traveling by air, they’ve made adjustments. “They’re going to give a special leave,” she noted, saying employees will be given leniency for not being back to work on time due to the delays in air travel.

She has been doing some limited work while here in the states via Internet. She has a big event she is organizing for about 400 people for next Friday and hopes she can pull it off from a distance.

On Tuesday of this week some reports were that air travel would soon return to normal in Europe. Ketselidou hopes it will, but knows it will still be some time before everything is running smoothly again. A colleague of hers took a bus with the trip being about 26 hours. She said trains and buses are packed, and while she could fly into Spain, she still isn’t guaranteed to get home any sooner than waiting for a flight next Monday.

With more than 20 European countries closing their airspace, Ketselidou knows it will be some time before all of the travelers will be at their intended destination, she being one of them.

“As her fiance, I’m glad she’s here longer,” grinned Fogle, but he knows she needs to be with her daughters and get back to her job. He also has concerns about his own daughter, Alexandria, who lives in Brussels. She was traveling to an athletic event with her school and was stranded in Portugal as of Tuesday of this week.

Ketselidou is from Greece, but moved to Brussels in 1992 to take the current position she holds and also lives in the capitol city of Belgium now. While she loves to visit the United States, and does so on a frequent basis, she is definitely looking forward to getting home.

Eyjafjallajokull literally means Island of Mountainous Glaciers and is the fifth largest glacier in the world.