"We know that going to Ukraine is crazy, but we have to go and pick up our daughter"
A couple from Sabadell who resorted to surrogacy travels to the war-torn country to pick up their child
Special envoy to Przemysl (Poland)They are queuing at the station in the Polish city of Przemysl, just ten kilometres from the Ukrainian border, to catch a train that will take them to a place few would want to go now: Ukraine. At first glance they look like an ordinary couple. That is why it is striking that they are there, among dozens of refugees and peculiar characters who want to join the war.
She is has a carry-on suitcase, one of those that can be put in the cabin of an aeroplane, and a small backpack that seems about to burst, full to the brim. Her name is Eva Casbas, she is 41 years old, from Sabadell and works as a hairdresser. He has another suitcase, also small. He is Agustín Bianchi, 39 years old, Argentinian-Italian, and works in the human resources. When asked why on earth they are going to Ukraine, tears come to Eva's eyes and she can hardly answer: "We are going to look for our daughter," they say.
Eva and Agustin say they always wanted to be parents but, try as they might, she never got pregnant. So they resorted to in vitro fertilization but, when they were in the middle of the process, Eva was diagnosed with breast cancer. The disease had already killed her mother when she was only 6 years old, her maternal grandmother and two of her aunts. They all had something in common: a genetic mutation. So the doctors opted for a radical solution: they removed both of Eva's breasts and her ovaries.
During the process of in vitro fertilization Eva and Agustín had obtained three embryos that were not affected by the genetic mutation. The problem was that, after the cancer and the operations to which Eva was subjected, they could not implant them in her uterus. So they resorted to the only option they considered they had: surrogacy. That is, to implant the embryos in the uterus of another woman. To do so, they hired the services of Gestlife agency, which is based in Barcelona. "We chose this company because it is the one that gives the surrogate the most dignified treatment", the couple claims. According to them, the woman was paid €21,000, out of the €65,000 they had to pay the agency.
Eva and Agustín had already travelled to Kyiv in November to meet the woman in whose womb the embryos had been implanted: Yana, a 30-year-old Ukrainian woman, who is married and the mother of two daughters. "She needed money to renovate her house, that's why she did it," they explain. They planned to return to Ukraine to fetch the child this March, but what they never imagined is that they would have to do it in the middle of a war.
"We know it's crazy, but we have no choice," Eva says, who admits that she is scared. "Watching a war on TV when you're warm at home is one thing, but seeing it live is another," she murmurs. Nevertheless, she doesn't complain: at Przemysl station they had to wait five hours in the open to catch the train to Ukraine, and it's freezing cold. Agustin takes the opportunity to do some business sitting on the floor with a laptop computer. Surrogacy is legal in Ukraine, but there is no doubt that the paperwork is complicated in times of war.
Yana gave birth to a baby girl on March 8, Women's Day, in the province of Kirovograd, in central Ukraine. She was due to give birth in Kiev, but was forced to flee the capital because of shelling. The baby girl's name is Olivia and she weighed 2.860 kilograms. According to Eva, the name means "she who protects peace", even though she was born in such turbulent times.
"A bag and two overalls, diapers, bottles, breast milk, liquid paracetamol, vitamin D...", Eva lists some of the things she has packed for the baby. She has taken everything she thought she might need in a country at war and that she could fit in such a small space, she says. At the moment of boarding the train, there is pushing and shoving and nerves because there are dozens of people trying to get on the train and they have been waiting for many hours. The couple plans to meet Yana in the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, some ninety kilometres from the border. They are counting on the support of the Argentine government, which has coordinated with the Brazilian diplomatic delegation in Ukraine to receive them in that city and offer them lodging.
Two days and three nights in the city of Lviv
Eva and Agustin spent two days and three nights in Lviv, but never saw Yana or Olivia. "Rage, anger, disappointment, fear." That's what they felt, Agustin explains over the phone from Warsaw, the capital of Poland. "Every day we had to go down to the shelter every time the air-raid sirens sounded: at one o'clock in the morning, at three o'clock in the morning, whatever time it was," he continues.
Finally the surrogacy agency informed them that Yana had fled to Poland with Olivia, her two daughters and husband. She did not intend to take the child with her, only to save her husband from the war. Men between the ages of 18 and 60 are forbidden to leave Ukraine because they have been drafted, except for those who have a disability or are the parents of three or more children. That is why Yana crossed the border with Olivia and her two daughters, so that her husband could also leave the country.
Eva and Agustín finally met Olivia this Tuesday in Warsaw. The meeting could not have been more emotional. They admit that the fact that Yana had left Ukraine with the child without doing the relevant paperwork made registering her as their child more complicated, but they are confident that they will be able to sort it out in the next few days. They also say that Yana had become attached to the child. Under normal circumstances, she would not even have seen her after birth, yet she took care of her for 14 days. "We have told her to come and see her whenever she wants. It's the most humane solution," they say.