This secretive community is helping Ukrainian refugees to find abortions in Europe


In Ukraine, abortion regulations are very liberal. However Ukrainian refugees fleeing the battle discovered a lot more restrictive regulations in neighboring Poland.

Nicole Xu for NPR


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Nicole Xu for NPR

In Ukraine, abortion regulations are very liberal. However Ukrainian refugees fleeing the battle discovered a lot more restrictive regulations in neighboring Poland.

Nicole Xu for NPR

Zuzanna Dziuban has had numerous tough conversations with Ukrainian refugees in recent years. However there’s one with a pregnant girl that sticks in her reminiscence.

“She’s in Poland for 4 weeks, and simply realized in regards to the demise of her husband,” says Dziuban, a pro-choice abortion activist based totally in Berlin.

He was once killed within the battle she had simply escaped. Traumatized through all of it, the lady could not raise the newborn to time period.

“I shed some tears, but additionally supported her in ordering drugs and instructed her the place to do it,” Dziuban says. “I cried somewhat after which idea, ‘OK, that is the brand new fact. Get used to it.'”

Many Ukrainian girls who have been pushed out in their houses through the battle have discovered themselves in neighboring Poland, the place abortion is seriously restricted. Even serving to somebody get entry to an abortion can lead to a long prison sentence.

Nonetheless, activists in and round Poland are running in secretive networks to lend a hand Ukrainians get abortions.

Dziuban works with a kind of networks, a collective referred to as “Ciocia Basia” – a reputation supposed to steer clear of suspicion from Polish government.

“It is diminutive from slightly a conventional Polish identify, a reputation that you’ll put on your telephone and it does not glance suspicious as a result of everybody in Poland has some Auntie Basia,” Dziuban says.

The ones telephone calls have greater dramatically because the starting of the battle in Ukraine, conserving Dziuban and her fellow activists round Europe busy. Their paintings will even be discovered on the border between Poland and Ukraine, the primary access level for loads of hundreds of refugees.

Rape as a weapon of battle

An indication in a conveyable toilet on the Medyka border crossing in Poland with telephone numbers for a gynecology hotline. There are trademarks for Polish reproductive rights teams that connect to a community of ladies’s organizations throughout Europe.

Adam Lach for NPR


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Adam Lach for NPR

“You aren’t by myself,” learn the flyers inside of transportable bathrooms on the Medyka border crossing. The telephone selection of a gynecology hotline staffed through a Ukrainian physician could also be written in giant daring writing.

The flyers have been put there through Federa, a girls’s rights crew that has existed since 1991, when abortion was once extensively to be had in Poland.

Their paintings has change into much more vital since October 2020, when Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal carried out a near-total ban on abortion, even in circumstances of serious fetal abnormality. In recent years, Federa has been supporting Ukrainian refugees, together with some who’ve been raped through Russian infantrymen whilst fleeing the battle.

“They wish to stay it most sensible secret,” says Krystyna Kacpura, the president of Federa. “They do not wish to percentage it with their households. They stated to me, ‘The battle will finish someday and we need to proceed our standard lives.'”

The ladies who speak in confidence her can not convey themselves to inform their husbands who’re preventing in Ukraine. They inform Kacpura they do not wish to be considered a sufferer of rape, they usually may not permit her to file their revel in as rape.

Polish legislation does permit abortion in circumstances of rape, however, consistent with Poland’s well being ministry, the rustic hasn’t ever had greater than 3 such circumstances in a 12 months. Kacpura says the federal government makes finishing a being pregnant almost unimaginable, even for rape sufferers.

There are invasive investigations, interviews with the police and prosecutors, and reviews that would retraumatize rape sufferers, consistent with Kacpura.

“May you believe a deficient Ukrainian girl or lady who will pass and solution many questions and can look forward to two weeks for the verdict of a prosecutor?”

The Polish fact translator

For Ukrainian girls who’re used to secure and felony abortions at house, understanding Poland’s strict regulations whilst looking to start a brand new existence is daunting. That is the place Oxsana Lytvynenko is available in.

“I am not just a Ukrainian language translator, but additionally a Polish fact translator,” says Lytvynenko, a Ukrainian who has lived in Poland for 18 years. Formally, she works as a translator for newly arrived Ukrainians. Unofficially, she’s a pro-choice activist serving to the ones refugees navigate the brand new felony panorama in Poland.

She says Ukrainian girls infrequently ask about abortions outright because of the stern regulations, and as an alternative use euphemisms.

“They are attempting to explain it in otherwise,” Lytvynenko says. “Requesting drugs to make their length come sooner.”

Serving to in any respect is a large possibility.

Justyna Wydrzynska, every other pro-choice activist and a member of a Polish grassroots initiative referred to as the “Abortion Dream Crew,” is recently waiting for trial in Warsaw. She faces 3 years in jail after being accused of serving to a girl in an abusive dating finish a being pregnant.

“She was once begging us, ‘Please lend a hand me in some way,'” Wydrzynska says. The girl’s spouse instructed her that if she left the rustic to get an abortion and took their two-year-old kid along with her, he would file a kidnapping to the police.

“And after that, when he simply blackmailed her, she made up our minds to only ask if it’s good to please ship me drugs. However please do it in whole secret,” Wydrznska remembers. “However [her husband] in some way were given the ideas, as a result of he referred to as the police and stated she won some more or less lend a hand from someone. She were given drugs from someone.”

Wydrzynska is the primary activist in Europe to stand prison fees since Poland enacted its strict regulations. She does not know if prosecutors will probably be lenient and provides her a suspended sentence, or make an instance out of her and ship her to jail.

And because the trial nears, even activists running out of doors of Poland are apprehensive about being stuck up within the Polish felony device.

“We will by no means understand how Polish prosecutors will interpret scenarios,” says Zuzanna Dziuban, the activist based totally in Berlin who works with Ciocia Basia. “We’re unsure the way it can broaden, in the event that they begin to pass after activists, for example, running in a foreign country.”

However, for now, the ones secretive networks outside and inside of Poland will proceed to lend a hand because the battle stretches on into its fourth month and increasingly more Ukrainian girls flee into Poland.



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