The vast majority of surrogacy stories end happily. A loving family has a baby, and the surrogate who carried the baby is well paid for her time and sacrifice. Unfortunately, those stories don’t typically make the news. Instead, we see bizarre cases like one this past week. After a surrogate went on the lam, police located both her and the baby—now 18 months old—in Greek Cyprus. Of course, this story does start in the same way most other stories start: with a couple unable to carry a child on their own turning to an IVF clinic and surrogate.
In this case, however, the couple was among the ultra-wealthy Russian elite. Russian businesswoman Olga Mirimskaya, fresh off her divorce from a Russian oil tycoon, met and fell in love with the head of Russia’s national payment system (like PayPal for Russia), Nikolai Smirnov. Mirimskaya had three children from her previous marriage, but Smirnov and Mirimskaya, the newlywed couple, wished to have a child together.
Turning to IVF and Surrogacy.
At 50+, Mirimskaya was unable to produce healthy eggs to conceive, and so her adult daughter donated eggs (the child is technically Mirimskaya’s grandchild). The donated eggs were combined with Smirnov’s sperm to create the embryos to transfer to the surrogate.
The couple chose what they thought was an ideal surrogate in Svetlana Bezpyataya. Bezpyataya had previously acted as a surrogate four times without complaint. Bezpyataya underwent medical clearance and entered into a legal agreement with the couple. The embryo transfer was successful, and the couple received the great news that they were pregnant. They prepared their nursery and picked out their gestating daughter’s name – Sofia.
Then Things Took A Bad Turn.
Things took a turn for the worse during the pregnancy as Mirimskaya and Smirnov’s relationship quickly crumbled. Ultimately, the couple divorced. Mirimskaya continued to pay the surrogate and address her requests, but days before giving birth, Bezpyataya disappeared.
Mirimskaya later learned that Bezpyataya gave birth to baby Sofia on May 15, 2015, and that she had claimed the baby as her own. Bezpyataya and her husband (who may or may not have known what was happening) were named as Sofia’s parents on the birth certificate, as Bezpyataya hid the surrogacy arrangement. Within a week of giving birth, Bezpyataya fled to Cyprus with the newborn child.
Why would the surrogate take this drastic step? It appears she was paid to do so by the ex-husband, Smirnov. Court documents showed evidence that Smirnov paid Bezpatyaya and Bezpatyaya’s husband and teenage daughter to move to Cyprus. There, they were put up in luxury accommodations. (It’s hard to say “Nyet” to that offer.)
Let’s Bring the Courts In To Make It Interesting.
Of course, with two wealthy parties with money to burn on lawyers, it turned interesting quickly.
While Mirimskaya was pressing her case with the courts and police to find and bring back her child, Bezpyataya (funded by Smirnov) was arguing relentlessly that she was the child’s mother. Despite genetic tests ultimately showing that Bezpyataya was not related to the child, her attorneys managed to obtain a ruling in a Moscow district court that the surrogacy contract was invalid. She then used that ruling to bring a criminal case against Mirimskaya in Cyprus, claiming that Mirimskaya had falsified the surrogacy documents.
A Dead Witness?
The doctor — who would have been extremely helpful testifying on behalf of Mirimskaya – was found dead in his office under mysterious circumstances mere days before the trial. Conveniently (for those who might otherwise be investigated), his death was ruled a suicide. It was not convenient, however, for Mirimskaya, much less Russia’s reputation for law and order.
At long last, Mirimskaya prevailed, after persuading a Russian court to confirm her legal rights to Sofia and dismiss the criminal charges against her. Bezpyataya was also accused of engaging in “human trafficking,” based on evidence that Smirnov had paid her at least $12,000 to abscond with the child to Cyprus.
One can only hope that with the recent arrest of the surrogate and location of the child, the madness will end and little Sofia will be able to find a stable home with Mirimskaya. But given the story to date, that may be wishful thinking.