TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Three premature babies from a hospital in Ukraine have found safety in Poland thanks in part to a Tampa-based non-profit that rescues Americans and allies in war zones.
As heavy shelling slammed into buildings across Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, team members with Project DYNAMO helped evacuate the newborns from a hospital within earshot of the explosions.
“We could hear artillery in the city. It wasn’t on us, but it was close enough where we could hear and feel it though,” Project DYNAMO co-founder Bryan Stern said from a location in the Ukraine.
The nonprofit said two doctors, two neonatal specialists, a nurse and an Ukranian ambulance crew assisted in the evacuation of the three babies – twin American boys and a British baby girl. Stern has served in the military and been in war zones, but said this operation presented many challenges.
“The little girl, the little British girl, was on a ventilator and had all kinds of machines and all kinds of stuff,” he explained. “So the way this works is, if the power goes out, they’re going to die. If the glass blows out in the hospital and there are particulates in the air, they’re going to die.”
The babies, in incubators, were put into an ambulance and escorted to a hospital in Rzeszow, Poland where their families and members of the British and U.S. Consular service were waiting.
In order to get out of the country, Stern said he had to pass through more than three dozen checkpoints inside Ukraine.
“That’s part of what [Project] DYNAMO does, we are good at handling these situations,” he said. “We are very experienced in doing these kinds of things and we brief our passengers on things to do and things not to do.”
Project DYNAMO is a joint effort by two operations, Digital Dunkirk and Dynamo II, to help Americans and allies abroad flee areas of conflict. In December, they rescued dozens of American citizens and lawful residents from Afghanistan.
The organization said it’s received more than 14,000 requests for evacuation from people from around the globe. It’s rescued 150 people in 14 missions throughout Ukraine.
The effort is funded entirely by private donations.
“The buses don’t pay for themselves, the airplanes don’t pay for themselves, the hotels, the drivers, the COVID tests,” Stern said.
He said he’s committed to helping others, especially Americans in need.
“I’ve been doing the country’s bidding for my entire adult life,” Stern said. “One way or the other, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been helping Americans, helping the country, supporting and defending the constitution.”