Dying mother hopes to keep her family together

Having to give up your own children may be the hardest thing a mother could think about, but for one Ukrainian woman it's the only hope she has for her four youngsters.

Svetlana Yakovleva, who lives in Poland, was diagnosed with cancer a year ago and is now fighting a legal as well as a medical battle to save her family.

When she discovered she had an advanced cancer of the womb, doctors didn't give her much hope. And since the two biological fathers of her children never cared for them, she decided to find them a family.

“I want [their new family] to be kind people, that’s the most important thing. So that they will not take them first and then after a year, if they have faced difficulties, give them back,” she says.

Svetlana knows what it’s like to be adopted. Her own mother abandoned her when she was only seven months old. So it's important to her to find loving parents for her kids, and hopes that her heart will guide her.

Among the fifty families who want to adopt Svetlana's children is a teacher called Vlad and his wife. He says that when they heard about her situation they didn’t think twice.

“I felt that might I be of help to her and, if not to her, then to her children. This is a natural human move,” he said.

One of the main conditions Svetlana has set is that her children should not be separated. All are under ten years old with her youngest, Patrizia, aged just one-and-a-half. But there is a major legal complication. Svetlana is Ukrainian; she came to Poland in the 90s, trying to earn a living. Even though all of her children were born in Poland, only two hold Polish passports. The eldest two were born while she was separated from her Ukrainian husband, but not divorced. So if she dies, two of them could be deported back to Ukraine.

A charity which supports Ukrainian migrants in Poland confirms this: “Law is law. And frankly speaking, until all of her four children hold Polish citizenship, in the case of Svetlana’s death, Ukraine may demand the return of the two with Ukrainian citizenship,” says Kajetan Wroblewski, Vice-President of the Proksenos Foundation.

The foundation raised money for Svetlana's treatment and helped her gain legal status in the Poland. Now they are trying to get her children local passports. It's a lengthy process, and time is not on Svetlana's side.

Svetlana is undergoing her sixth and final course of chemotherapy now. Doctors say it's the last chance to save her life and, after that, there is nothing more they can do.

But Svetlana says she is determined to fight to the end. Her eldest children, Paulina, aged 9, and Christian, who’s 8, know that their mother is looking for a family for them, but still hope for a miracle to happen.

“If I had a magic wand I would ask it to grant health for my mummy. I want her to become well so that we can all live together,” Paulina said.