Campaigners supporting Irish couples having babies through surrogate mothers in Ukraine say it was "heartbreaking" and a "daily horror" for couples unable to travel due to Russia's war.
Attending a vigil in support of Ukraine outside the country’s embassy in Dublin on Saturday evening, representatives from Irish Families Through Surrogacy said they were in regular contact with pregnant surrogate mothers in Ukraine and the clinics supporting to ensure they were safe.
Ukraine is a popular location for Irish couples seeking to have babies via surrogate mothers.
Fourteen Irish families were due to have babies through surrogate mothers in Ukraine between February and May. The Department of Foreign Affairs is assisting the families.
"It is horrific. In a normal pregnancy by a surrogate – and in my own experience – the moment you touched down in the country, you felt so close to your baby," said Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery Kearney, who is supporting Irish families expecting surrogate babies.
She said that it was “unimaginable” that Irish couples could not travel to Ukraine because of the Russian invasion and for them to be apart from their babies when they are born.
“Every instinct is to care for their child. It is to want to protect their child, particularly in a war. There’s nowhere in our mindsets where we can even how imagine how this is,” she said.
The Fine Gael senator said Irish couples were working with surrogacy clinics in Ukraine to ensure their babies are cared for “until such time as it is safe to travel.”
“But they won’t be able to travel until there is a ceasefire,” she said.
Ms Seery Kearney spoke to dozens of people gathered outside the embassy in Ballsbridge who were protesting against the Kremlin's attack on Ukraine.
Numerous protesters held anti-Putin signs denouncing the Russian president’s military actions. There were chants of “expel Filatov” – a reference to Russia’s ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov – after a minute’s silence was held to those who had died in the fighting in Ukraine.
Ciara Merrigan, chair of Irish Families Through Surrogacy, said that it was "daily horror" and "scramble" to contact surrogate mothers and move them to a safer place in Ukraine.
“Surrogate mothers have their own families so they may not want to move from Kyiv or the east of the country. Every day is a complete nightmare,” she said.
She said efforts were being taken to move mothers to western Ukraine and across the border in Poland but some Ukrainian women have their own families and may not want to move.
“We are trying our best to put in safeguards and keep them safe,” she said
Ms Merrigan said she was in regular contact with the surrogate mother who gave birth to her twins Clara and Matthew three years ago.
“She is quite distressed. She is trying to get her family out of Ukraine and over to Poland at the minute. There are huge backlogs at every border,” she said.
Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko told The Irish Times that Russia's invasion was a "huge problem" for Irish families awaiting the arrival of newborn babies in Ukraine.
“I hope these mothers will survive,” she said.