Andrea Diez and her husband Fernando Montero, from Argentina, dreamed of having a baby for almost a decade.
“We tried for nine years to have a baby, we were not able to. We had a lot of treatments – like 12,” Andrea tells Hromadske. “We did everything in our reach.”
Like eight other Argentine families, Andrea arrived in Ukraine at the end of May to pick up their son, born to a surrogate mother in Ukraine.
“His name is Ignacio, we shorten it to Nacho," Andrea tells Hromadske on a video call after she arrived in Ukraine. "He was born on April 29.”
Andrea chose Ukraine as her surrogacy destination because it provided the best "possibilities, results, and relationship between cost and benefit." Ukraine remains one of the very few countries that legally allow commercial surrogacy.
She decided to turn to surrogacy last year, at the age of 45, a"time when I had to make a decision because it's a very crucial moment."
So the couple came to Kyiv in 2019, left their biological samples with the clinic, and the clinic itself chose the surrogate mother. Everything seemed to be in check, except then things became difficult for another reason...
Andrea Diez, the mother of a baby boy born to a surrogate mother in Kyiv, talks to Hromadske's Maria Romanenko. Photo: Maks Levin
Andrea had her tickets to come to Ukraine at the end of March to ensure she’s in the country for the baby’s due date in April.
“So I was supposed to be here when Ignacio comes into our lives. I prepared everything to be ready in March,” she says.
But Ukraine had its first coronavirus case on March 3 and by March 16 – despite only having 7 cases and no coronavirus-related deaths – the country imposed strict travel restrictions.
“It was supposed that the flights would [start] operating in October. So it was very frustrating because we supposed that we wouldn't be able to see our baby until October,” Andrea says to Hromadske when we meet her a few days later at the hotel in Pushcha Vodytsia where she was self-isolating upon arrival.
“So we were very worried, thinking that probably, we will meet him when he is four or five months.”
But the couple were helped with getting to Kyiv by the Argentine government and a businessman who organized and funded a flight from Madrid to Kyiv (there are no direct flights between Buenos Aires and Kyiv). The flight to Madrid the couple paid for themselves.
Ukrainian nurses hold foreign babies that due to the coronavirus pandemic and closed borders had to wait for their parents at the hotel "Venice." June 10, 2020. Photo: Maks Levin / hromadske
There were five other couples picking up their biological babies on the same day as Andrea and Fernando. The clinic organized an event at the hotel "Venice" in Kyiv. The event was attended by many Ukrainian and foreign journalists as the initial story about 46 babies stuck at this same hotel gained a lot of interest worldwide. The pictures and videos of these babies went viral, and the Ukrainian government predicted that the number of babies can grow to almost a thousand if the country's borders remain closed.
Nurse hands over Ignacio to his mother, Andrea Diez from Argentina, on June 10. Ignacio was born to a Ukrainian surrogate mother. Photo: Maks Levin / hromadske
On June 10, the handing over "ceremony" day, around 70 babies remained waiting for their parents at the hotel.
Argentine mother Andrea Diez holds her son Nacho (short for Ignacio) on June 10 at the hotel "Venice" in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: Maks Levin / hromadske
"We made each other happy"
The news about babies stuck at a hotel in Kyiv led to some negative discussions, too. The Commissioner of the President of Ukraine for Children's Rights, Mykola Kuleba, has severely spoken out against commercial surrogacy.
“This is, in essence, the exploitation of women. Slavery, to which they agree because of poverty. And would have never agreed if it wasn't for the money,” Kuleba wrote on Facebook on May 28. “This isn't an opportunity for childless couples. This is making money from child trafficking.”
Fernando Montero (R) holds his son Ignacio for the first time in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 10. Photo: Maks Levin / hromadske
Kuleba's statements caused polar reactions. And it was his comparison of LGBTQ community members with rapists in the sentence "the 'couple' can turn out to be homosexuals or rapists" that angered even the office of Ukraine's ombudsperson.
But Andrea assures: in her case, both her family and the family of her surrogate mother are happy.
“I know that [our surrogate mother] has two kids. And her decision to do this was [in order] to stay at home with the kids. And they were very small kids. So she said ‘I prefer to be at home, I prefer to do this and take care of my kids.’ So it was a win-win situation,” she says.
Andrea Diez (L), her husband Fernando Montero (R), and their son Ignacio on June 10. Photo: Maks Levin / hromadske
Now Ukraine is like a second home to Andrea.
“It's like my second nationality right now. And everyone who gets through this process is so grateful because of this chance to become parents, so it's great,”
There are now more than 30 Argentinian couples that have had their babies born to Ukrainian surrogate mothers.
“Once a year, we make a meeting altogether with all the babies born in Ukraine. We have Ukrainian food and we put Ukrainian flags. And it's like a very nice celebration for us,” Andrea says.
/By Maria Romanenko
/Photos and video by Maks Levin