A couple have been forced to flee in the dead of night with their surrogate baby after he was born in a temporary air-raid shelter in Ukraine.
Little Alfonso was born in the makeshift bunker in the basement of a maternity hospital in Kyiv last Saturday, two days after Russia launched its ongoing large-scale military invasion of its neighbour.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, 352 civilians died on the day little Alfonso came into the world amid the sounds of bombs, missiles and sirens. At least 14 of them were children.
The newborn's elated parents, Eugenia and Sebastian Manoni, captioned a picture of their baby: "There is no war that love cannot overcome."
However, it was not all smiles as the parents, who hail from Buenos Aires, had decided to have their child through surrogacy in Ukraine, unaware of the fate that would befall the country.
Eugenia and Sebastian first flew to Ukraine in May 2021 to leave genetic material. Everything went as planned and they received a due date at the end of February.
They returned to Kyiv along with other Argentine couples, who had travelled there for the same reason, when Russia suddenly launched its military invasion.
The couple and five other Argentine couples received a message from their home country's consulate informing them to seek shelter in the bunker of the embassy in Kyiv.
Eugenia told Argentine media outlet Infobae at the time: "We are staying in the basement of the residence while the bombings take place."
Amid the tension, she and Sebastian were able to get to the maternity hospital to welcome Alfonso into the world.
But the endeavour was far from over as the couples had to escape the country under siege and get to safety with their newborns.
Five Argentine families managed to escape to Poland in a minibus in operation organised by the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Eugenia, Sebastian and Alfonso, however, boarded a vehicle with just nappies, some food supplies and the clothes they were wearing to the Romanian capital, Bucharest.
"Although the entire operation had been perfectly orchestrated, there was not much time. Sebastian drove for 17 hours nonstop through fog, snow and terrifying cold," Eugenia told Infobae.
Their entire journey was monitored by satellite by the Argentine Foreign Ministry and the embassies of both countries.
They finally reached the Romanian border near the town of Siret, only to come up against an endless queue of traffic.
But they swiftly breathed a sigh of relief when they were met in person by the Argentine ambassador and his wife, who had come looking for them "like in a film", according to Eugenia.
Though the family has received sympathy over the ordeal, the couple’s actions have not been met without criticism.
This is because Ukraine is one of only a few countries in which commercial surrogacy is legal, with clinics and private agencies offering such services, which has fuelled what has been dubbed "rent-a-womb tourism".
Critics of the practice say it exploits vulnerable women and they call the commercialisation of surrogacy a new form of human trafficking.
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