Cherelle Griner is beyond happy her wife is back home.
In a new interview with People, the wife of Brittney Griner opens up about the experience of watching from afar as the basketball star was jailed in Russia, and her release earlier this month.
Brittney Griner Released From Russian Custody In Prisoner Swap
“It was almost as if somebody just punched you in the stomach and you inhaled,” Cherelle says of Brittney’s arrest and sentencing for smuggling illegal drugs. “You never get to breathe out.”
She says of the 10 months her wife spent locked up, “I was hopeless a lot of days. You try and stay grounded, but I’m human. Still, I would never completely give up hope on my wife’s life.”
Finally, on Dec. 8, Cherelle learned the news from U.S. President Joe Biden that Brittney would be released in a prisoner exchange with Russia.
“I had thought about that moment a thousand times, and I thought I would be full of tears,” she says. “But I was overwhelmingly happy. It was the first time I was able to finally exhale, and I’m like, ‘Oh, thank God, this is such a great day.’”
Brittney Griner Posts First Comments After Being Released From Russian Custody
Standing on the tarmac to greet her wife upon her return to America, Cherrelle recalls, “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 continued, “Those seconds couldn’t go by fast enough. I couldn’t stop touching her face. I was like, ‘Is this really you?’ It did not feel real. It was chilling — and warm. I was just holding on tight. I couldn’t let her go.”
Cherelle also shared what their first night reunited was like.
“The first night, we didn’t sleep at all,” she laughs. “We just talked all night long and all morning. And it was so good to be able to do it without three weeks in between the conversation, because for 10 months we were passing letters. It was great to have that dialogue back and forth.”