Ukrainian soldiers can have their sperm frozen for free

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Ukrainian recruits in October 2022
NOS News
  • Wessel de Young

    news reporter

Iryna Tkachuk, who lives just outside Kiev, is very sweet to her cat, to whom she speaks softly. It is not difficult to imagine her as a young mother. But her husband is at the front, so getting pregnant is now difficult. Fertility clinics in the Ukrainian capital offer a solution. They offer soldiers the opportunity to have their semen frozen for free, in case something happens to them.

“This summer I received an article from a friend about the clinics. My husband said: we will talk about that.” Then he received the message that he was being transferred to the east and the children’s issue gained momentum.

The couple had a bit of luck, the departure to the front was postponed, so that there was just time to go to the clinic. “In all the excitement we started anyway, even though we weren’t mentally ready and we didn’t know the procedure. We didn’t know anything at all. Because we didn’t think it would be that fast and sudden,” she says.

Iryna Tkatchuk actually does not want to think at all about the chance that her husband will be seriously injured or killed: “It is clear that no one is talking about this bad scenario, there is a belief that everything will turn out well and he will return. But still, it plays , probably on a subconscious level.”

Trust in medical science

Andrii Levkoet, who is an army doctor, also had his sperm frozen. We speak to him via video link, somewhere in Ukraine. The suggestion that by doing so he is defying fate, or inviting death, as it were, is nonsense to him.

“I think we determine our own destiny,” says Levkoet. “If medical science now makes this possible, why shouldn’t I take advantage of it? I think it’s important that our family continues.”

Securing legacy

Galyna Strelko is a doctor at the clinic where Levkoet and Iryna’s husband had their sperm frozen. Five to six soldiers report to Ivmed, as the clinic is called, per week. That was only one a week at the beginning of the war.

The increase is due to the fact that the free program is becoming better known, Strelko thinks. To date, approximately 150 military personnel have submitted their genetic material to Ivmed. It is unknown how many Ukrainian soldiers in total use this option at other clinics that do the same.

According to Strelko, the freezing program has important psychological significance for the soldiers, who risk their lives: “They will feel more secure, because they know that they have secured their legacy in a way.”

Of the 150 couples who store the man’s semen at Ivmed, fifty women have now used insemination. While the men did not die. According to Strelko, the war in many cases increases the desire to have children. “You have couples who wanted a baby, but not for another five years. And then the man is called up for the army. In that case, the wish is triggered to have the baby right away.”

So it was with Iryna and her husband – before the war. “As a couple we have always thought about children, but not in detail. We are the same age, first wanted to become a little independent, find work and become more stable. While we were talking about having children, the war broke out. early.”

‘Keep Identity’

Levkoet is already a chapter further. He has two daughters and would like to have a third child with his wife. The army doctor has a patriotic argument for the wartime family expansion: “We have always had a hard time with the Russians: revolution, famine and now war. That is why we must keep our identity and have many children.” Levkoet, in his army green shirt, grins.

And what about the risk that this third child will grow up without perhaps ever knowing his or her father? This is also not a difficult question for Levkoet: “How many children do not grow up in single-parent families? Our choice can be explained. The child will understand this soon enough.”

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