Not without our baby: Australian couple unable to flee Ukraine

Samuel Hogg and Tessa Pollard with baby Jasper, born in Ukraine and awaiting a passport and travel permits to be allowed to fly home to Australia. Photo: GoFundMe
Samuel Hogg and Tessa Pollard with baby Jasper, born in Ukraine and awaiting a passport and travel permits to be allowed to fly home to Australia. Photo: GoFundMe

A Perth family who travelled to Ukraine for the birth of their baby have been stranded without the ability to return home as the threat of military action rises.

Tessa Pollard and Samuel Hogg flew to the Eastern European country to take part in a surrogacy program, and with their surrogate Yulia, celebrated the arrival of baby Jasper Ron in recent weeks.

Australian foreign affairs personally called us and said 'we advise you leave Kyiv', and we said we cannot, until our baby can.

Tessa Pollard

The family's joy soon turned to worry and fear as the Australian government began warning Australian citizens to depart the country as soon as possible.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Monday night raised its advice to "Do Not Travel".

"Australians in Ukraine should leave now by commercial means, where safe to do so, noting that flight availability could change or be suspended at short notice," it said in a statement.

"Australians who decide to remain in Ukraine should review their personal security plans, be prepared to shelter in place if required, maintain heightened security awareness and register with DFAT."

Tessa Pollard said the family wanted to follow the advice and return home, but were unable to book flights without a complicated process to have her son's identification produced.

"We would get out sooner if the government could fast track DNA tests, citizenship and passport applications for the couples that have their babies," she said.

"Our babies are non-existent, they're not linked to Ukraine or Australia at the moment."

Jasper's DNA sampling was completed on Wednesday, and will now travel from the Australian embassy in Kyiv, to Canberra and onto Brisbane for testing.

"So results take one to two weeks," said Tessa.

"And then we can book an embassy passport appointment which are only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then two days after that we should have an emergency passport for Jasper in our hands."

"Australian foreign affairs personally called us and said 'we advise you leave Kyiv', and we said we cannot until our baby can.

"I said can you help fast track his DNA testing, so we can get the passport?

"They said it's not up to them as they have to follow the rules and laws of the government."

Worried family and friends at home in Western Australia have started a fundraising campaign to help the frustrated couple.

"The urgency to get them out of this place is immense," wrote friend and GoFundMe organiser Danielle Mercer.

"As a family they have been through hell and back after years of surrogacy trials and tribulations.

"The heart ache, the money, time and stress it has taken..."

Tessa's sister Diana Baker said the family had agonised over the best way for Tessa and Samuel to achieve their parenting dream.

"After much research, this was the best option," she said.

"[But] we never thought they would be doing this in a pandemic and pending war."

Tensions in Ukraine have been increasing for months after the Kremlin massed about 100,000 troops near Ukraine's borders, a build-up the West says is preparation for a war to prevent Ukraine joining NATO.

This week, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said there were about 1400 Australians in Ukraine and they should use commercial means to leave the country if safe to do so.

"This is a cautious and prudent step because the security situation is unpredictable," Senator Payne told the ABC.

"It is about protecting Australians on the ground."

Tessa and Samuel are now facing skyrocketing flight costs, with only commercial options currently available for evacuation.

"Between COVID-19, lockdowns, border closures and now this pending war, these guys have been through enough and need our support to get them home safely," Danielle Mercer said.

"Unfortunately the costs have escalated to unforeseen prices with very limited options.

"Their funds have been exhausted over and over, now with the pending war and our border not reopening the costs to get home urgently are exponential.

"This beautiful family need to get back home safely to be with the people they love to get some much needed reprieve and support."

To donate to the family's GoFundMe campaign, click here.

This story Not without our baby: Australian couple unable to flee Ukraine first appeared on Augusta-Margaret River Mail.