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In a makeshift air raid shelter in the Ukrainian capital, at least 20 babies born to surrogate mothers are waiting for their foreign parents to travel to the war-torn country and take them home.
Some are only a few days old and the babies are well cared for, but even underground, the blasts of occasional shelling can be clearly heard.
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Many nurses from the surrogacy center are also stranded at the shelter because it is too dangerous to travel to and from their homes. Ukrainian forces have resisted Russian forces in the outskirts of Kiev as they attempt to encircle the city.
“Now we are staying here to preserve our lives and the babies’ lives,” said Lyudmilia Yashchenko, a 51-year-old nurse. “We are hiding here from the bombings and this terrible misery.”
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Yashchenko said they go away during the day to get some fresh air, but don’t dare to stay outside too long. She is also concerned about her own children – her two sons, aged 22 and 30, are fighting to defend their country.
Exhaustion is constant.
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“We hardly sleep at all,” Yashchenko said. “We work around the clock.”
Ukraine has a thriving surrogate industry and is one of the few countries to allow the service for foreigners. The parents of these babies live in Europe, Latin America and China.
Yashchenko won’t say how many parents are coming to pick up their children, how many babies are still waiting or how many more surrogate mothers are expected to give birth soon.
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While there is plenty of food and baby supplies to care for their young children, the nurses must hope and wait for the newborns to be picked up — just as they wait for the war to end.