(March 14, 2022 / Israel21c) Right before Shabbat I received a phone call in Chișinău, Moldova from my father-in-law Eli Beer, the president and founder of United Hatzalah of Israel. He told me that there was a two-day-old child that needed to be rescued from Kyiv. The newborn’s mother was in Israel.
“You must drop everything and assist in this matter,” he said. This was to be the beginning of a sleepless 36-hour expedition.
First, I got the details needed to mount the rescue mission. Our team, which is based here in Moldova’s capital city, is providing humanitarian aid and emergency medical care to Ukrainian refugees coming across the border. However, when something needs to be done quickly and lives are at stake, we step in if we can.
In this case, a girl whose biological mother was in Israel had been born to a surrogate in Ukraine. After the birth, the surrogate had abandoned the infant in the hospital and fled the country due to the war. The nurse in charge informed us that if we didn’t take the baby by 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, she would be placed in an orphanage. Staying in the hospital was simply unsafe.
After a few hours of making calls, I succeeded in locating an ambulance company willing (for a large sum) to meet 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Kyiv—but they refused to enter the city due to the heavy shelling there.
We eventually managed to find a doctor who was willing to escort the infant, under armed escort, to the meeting place.
In the meantime, the arranged meeting place had to be changed due to bombing attacks in the region. After eight hours, the baby reached the ambulance.
After another nine tense, nerve-racking hours involving tons of phone calls and coordinating, the baby safely reached the border.
Together with Israeli Foreign Ministry representative Itzik Kagar, and with the assistance of former Israeli ambassador to Ukraine Joel Lion, we obtained all the necessary documents to have the baby transferred to our care in Moldova.
The border police (who by now have gotten to know us pretty well) were also informed and coordinated with us on the operation.
The mission was accomplished—the baby crossed the border. United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Vicky Tiferet (herself a mother of four) and I received the child.
However, the problems were not yet over. We had to drive toward the Romanian border since the Moldovan airport adjacent to the Ukrainian border was closed to air traffic.
Vicky and I were interrogated at the border, which was to be expected—after all, they wanted to know what we were doing with a three-day-old baby who had no connection to us.
One emotional meeting followed by another
Thankfully, 10 hours later, we arrived at the Iași International Airport in Romania on Monday morning, where we awaited the Israeli parents, who were arriving on a special flight from Israel, arranged by United Hatzalah.
The flight was also bringing additional medical teams and supplies for our mission in Moldova.
The reunion was tearful for all involved. It was a happy conclusion to a complicated rescue mission that involved four countries, multiple teams and two days of ceaseless effort.
But while the challenges for this family were over, another family’s were just beginning.
Aboard the flight from Israel was a second set of parents coming to rescue their surrogate child, who had also been born in Kyiv. With my assistance, they were hoping to retrieve their child as well.
It was time to get back to work.
The details of this second rescue operation cannot yet be published, but with God’s help, 28 hours later the second baby, also a girl, was on her way to Israel.
I have organized many different operations in my life, but this is definitely one I will never forget.
Saving two newborn infants stuck in the middle of a war is something that will stay with me forever.
I cannot explain the feeling I have when I look back on the events from this past weekend, but the work put in, and the humanity shown by all involved, was simply mind-boggling.
I’m delighted that two sets of parents have been united with their babies. I’m proud and excited to be part of the United Hatzalah rescue mission helping the refugees from Ukraine however old, or young, they are.
Aharon ben-Harush is a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT from Israel. He is currently serving as deputy commander of United Hatzalah’s Operation Orange Wings medical aid and humanitarian relief mission to the Ukrainian-Moldovan border.
This article first appeared in Israel21c.
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