Nurse Oksana Martynenko and her colleagues are taking care of 21 babies in a makeshift clinic set up in the basement of a building on the outskirts of kyiv. All little ones are born by surrogacy whose biological parents have not been able to pick them up because of the war.
She has her own family to worry about. Her children are in the Sumi region, a city 320 kilometers east of the capital that has suffered heavy bombardment from Russian forces. But it is too dangerous for Martynenko to try to get to them, so they are living with her grandmother.
“We have not been able to go home since February 24 (when the Russian invasion began),” he explains to the Reuters agency while changing the diapers of one of the babies. “I am from the Sumi region, but I can’t get there. I have children at home… They (the Russians) started bombing our village yesterday. We expect to receive news every day about what is happening there… But we can’t abandon these babies“.
Martynenko calls his family when he can to see if they are safe and if they can sleep at night. Many Ukrainians across the country spend their days running from their homes to bomb shelters as Russian troops attack towns and cities.
“It’s not the babies’ fault”
“They are not to blame for what happened,” she says of the babies in her care. “It’s not their fault that the parents can’t come take them. So we’re here, dealing with it and helping where we can.”
At the clinic, a nurse pushes a stroller with one hand and holds a baby in her other arm. She and her companions comfort the little ones. The children are lying in a line of plastic cots and the baby bottles They wait to be sterilized.
Staff say two couples, one from Germany and the other from Argentina, had arrived in kyiv to reunite with their babies, but it is unclear when they will be able to get them out of the country.
Epicenter of surrogate motherhood
Ukraine is one of the epicenters of surrogate motherhood in the world and thousands of children were born before the war, according to some estimates. Many of them from foreign parents.
The increase in gestation by substitutionn Human rights groups and some surrogates are concerned about the physical and psychological cost of the process and the risk of exploitation of women and their children in the poorest countries.
Another nurse, Antonina Yefymovych, explains that the staff are stuck in the city and working long hours to care for the little ones. “We don’t have time to rest now… We try to take little naps, we take turns. It’s hard, hard,” says Yefymovych, exhausted.
With the bombing intensifying, the explosions are getting louder. “It’s really scary.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.