In the weeks since Russia began its invasion on Ukraine, over 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced as a result of the enduring war. Millions, including expecting mothers, have fled Ukraine and found refuge in Poland and other surrounding countries.
Since the start of the war, more than 600 Ukrainian babies have been born in Poland as expecting mothers seek a safe environment for their children to be born. NBC’s Dasha Burns spoke with several new mothers in Warsaw for Saturday TODAY about their experiences giving birth — some to their first child — in a foreign country and amid uncertainty and crisis at home.
Alina Mustajok, who gave birth to a newborn daughter named Solomiya, told Burns and her translator that giving birth in Poland rather than her native country was “unimaginable.”
“When we came here to Poland I was hoping we would go back to Ukraine before I gave birth,” Mustajok said. “It seems too hard and scary to go back and you’re afraid the children won’t be safe. We decided to stay here.”
The new mother described her birth experience as “really scary,” though everything ultimately went smoothly.
“It was scary because you don’t know,” she explained. “You don’t know what they will be telling you because it’s a different language, but we were so lucky because the doctors were so kind and professional and they were speaking Ukrainian with us, actually. They were helping us all good. I didn’t even expect that it would be so good.”
Burns spoke with another expecting mother who was at the hospital by herself while her husband was back in Ukraine. Despite her circumstances, she still felt excited about the prospect of being a mother, telling Burns, “I’m a mom, just in my heart, so I look forward to it.”
“I hope that it will end up really well and I will be able to get home to Ukraine and so the father of the child will be able to see the child and we will be able to be together,” the expecting mother added.
Dr. Robert Brawura-Biskupski-Samaha, a gynecologist at the clinic, explained that the team is trying to provide the same medical assistance to the Ukrainian women as they would have received back at home. Even amid some of the fear that the women are facing as they experience their births alone and the darker aspects of his job, Dr. Brawura-Biskupski-Samaha still recognizes there can be a balance between the positives and negatives.
“The happiness that you get when these women deliver at least for a couple of minutes, at least a couple of hours, they get the pictures, they send them over to their loved ones back home,” he explained. “I think this is, you know, (to) counter effect what’s happening there."
With an estimated 240,000 pregnant women in Ukraine, it’s reported that 80,000 of these women will deliver their babies over the next three months, according to the United Nations Population Fund. Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, women have been forced to give birth in bomb shelters and newborn babies born by Ukrainian surrogates have been unable to leave.
Jaime Nadal, a United Nations Population Fund representative who is currently in Ukraine, told TODAY Parents last month that the pregnant women in Ukraine “need the war to stop,” explaining, “They need to go back to a situation where birth can be a joyful moment for them, as well as the rest of their families.”
Nadal was working with team members around the country in order to provide pregnant women with reproductive health emergency kits in addition to caring for pregnant Ukrainian refugees who successfully were able to leave the country. He explained that the women were “in shock,” adding. “They are in a state — if I had to use a word — I would say deplorable.”
“Many of these women have been under stress for many days,” Nadal said. They have had such a level of physical strain — running away from their cities and their villages, trying to reach safer conditions — that they arrive in poor physical conditions. We have reports from maternities in western Ukraine that the number of deliveries that have experienced serious complications has increased.”