Royce Sigler hasn't seen his daughters, Tanya and Ksenya, since 2008.
Although a Denton County judge awarded him custody during a divorce battle, their Russian-born mother secretly took them to Russia.
A few weeks ago Sigler got word his ex-wife had died.
He flew to Russia. His smile in a photo there reflects hope he might finally bring his daughters home.
The smile was gone Thursday.
"It was very heartbreaking to be that close to them, and still not be able to get them," Sigler told News 8 via Skype.
Sigler said the maternal grandmother refused to bring the girls to a meeting with Russian authorities, and then disappeared.
"Shut off her phones," he said. "That was the last they spoke to her."
It was part of a maddening struggle with red tape. Sigler had only a week in Russia to clear numerous hurdles.
"In those few days, we had to visit the prosecution office, the police department, the passport office, immigration, the girls' school," he said. "[I] got a picture of my youngest daughter, which is the first picture I've gotten in five years."
Ksenya is now 9 years old. Tanya is 11.
Sigler found their apartment in the resort city of Sochi.
"We talked to neighbors,” he said. “They both told me Tanya, my oldest, remembers me very well, and wants to come home."
Sigler has remarried, moved to Ohio from the Denton County town of Aubrey, and has a new baby. He is a landman for a large oil-and-gas producer.
"My understanding is, they know I'm looking for them," Sigler said. "I don't know what the grandmother has told them."
He does believe his daughters have been told he is a bad man.
Sigler hired a Russian lawyer to fight for his parental rights. Then, he returned to the U.S. to wait with his memories for another chance.
He hopes it comes soon.