TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Russian forced held 27-year-old Kirillo Alexandrov hostage for more than six weeks in Ukraine, but now he has reunited with family in Poland thanks to a non-profit evacuation group based in Tampa Bay.
“The amount of man hours and energy that went into recovering Kirillo was tremendous, but it was also the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” Project DYNAMO co-founder Bryan Stern said.
After the exfiltration from Russian captors, Stern said he told Alexandrov this mission wouldn’t be over until he saw his mother.
“It was extremely moving to be there with the man that saved my life and my mother, the woman that gave me life,” Alexandrov said of the moment he hugged his mom in Warsaw.
Russian forces are in control of the region in southern Ukraine where Alexandrov has been living with his Ukrainian wife and mother-in-law.
As he attempted to evacuate in late March, Russian troops arrested him on fabricated criminal charges, including spying for the U.S. government.
Each day they held him hostage, Alexandrov said he feared for his life.
“And it broke me in ways that I never thought I could be broke,” he said, adding he was subject to a “mock execution.”
Project DYNAMO called the mission “Detroit Lions” because Alexandrov is from Michigan.
Stern led the highly dangerous and complex operation. After negotiations stalled, he said time was running out before the Russians illegally moved Alexandrov to Moscow.
“They kept moving the goal post on us and doing other tricks,” Stern said. “We had a window of opportunity around victory day.”
From inside Russian occupied territory, Project DYNAMO raced across war torn Ukraine with Alexandrov and his family.
“When we got across the border, Kirillo and I early this morning into Poland, that’s when I took a big sigh of relief,” Stern said.
With freedom comes immeasurable gratitude.
“Bryan and his team are the single most honorable, bravest, caring people I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Alexandrov said.
Since the start of the war, Project DYNAMO has rescued nearly 700 people, including newborn babies and the elderly, during more than 50 missions from the most hostile areas of Ukraine.