By Rami Amichai and Rinat Harash
(Reuters) – An Israeli couple has asked for government help in rescuing a surrogate mother carrying their child from the war in Ukraine.
Sarit Haiman, 47, had gone through 12 years of unsuccessful fertility treatments before she and her husband, Alex, reached out to an international surrogacy agency based in Israel.
Through the agency they connected with Olga Voytenko, a 35-year-old factory worker who got pregnant after an embryo implantation six months ago. Voytenko lives in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia which is in an area of fighting with advancing Russian forces.
Haiman said they have asked Israel’s foreign minister to help them get Voytenko and her two children out of the country.
“If she could go through the border and be safe it will be beautiful, but she cannot go out, not by herself, not by car, it’s very problematic. They can be shot at, so I’m very scared for them, ” Haiman told Reuters.
In a video call from Ukraine, Voytenko expressed her worries of being killed or losing her house in the fighting.
“We are scared of the cold, it’s very cold, we are scared of being left without food,” she said.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that due to the fighting, its diplomats have moved to the Ukraine-Poland border and have been offering consular services from there. Entering Ukraine is not a possibility.
“We understand the sensitivity and the complicated situation that the family and the surrogate are in,” the ministry said. “We will gladly assist the surrogate to cross the border if she can make it to one of the border crossings where our people are located.”
The Haimans, who already spent over 250,000 shekels ($77,208) on the surrogacy process, said they were willing to finance the rescue costs.
Surrogacy is legal in Ukraine and cheaper than in some other countries, and people from all over the world have sought surrogate mothers there.
In May 2020, 51 babies born to surrogate mothers were stranded in the country after their foreign parents could not travel to collect them due to lockdowns and travel bans as a result of the pandemic, highlighting the extent of the practice.
More than 660,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries since Russia invaded, the U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday.
(Writing by Rinat Harash; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)