At a makeshift basement bomb shelter in Ukraine’s capital, at least 20 babies born to surrogate mothers are waiting for their foreign parents to be able to travel to the war-torn country and take them home.
Some just a few days old, the infants are well cared for, but even below ground the blasts of occasional shelling can be heard clearly.
Many of the surrogacy center’s nurses are also stranded in the shelter because it’s too dangerous to travel to and from their homes. Ukrainian troops have been resisting Russian forces in Kyiv’s suburbs as they attempt to encircle the city.
“Now we are staying here to preserve our and the babies’ lives,” said Lyudmilia Yashchenko, a 51-year-old nurse. “We are hiding here from the bombing and this horrible misery.”
Yashchenko said they leave briefly during the day to get some fresh air but don’t dare stay out too long. She worries about her own children, too both her sons, ages 22 and 30, are fighting to defend their country.
Exhaustion is constant.
“We are almost not sleeping at all,” Yashchenko said. “We are working round the clock.”
Ukraine has a thriving surrogate industry and is one of the few countries that allow the service for foreigners. These babies’ parents live in Europe, Latin America and China.
Yashchenko would not say how many parents have come to get their children, how many infants are still waiting or how many more surrogate mothers are expected to deliver soon.
While there’s plenty of food and baby supplies to care for their young charges, the nurses are left to hope and wait for the newborns to be picked up — just as they wait for the war to end.