Operation Gemini successfully transported twin boys from a hospital in Kyiv across the border to an awaiting facility in Rzeszow, Poland. However, the journey was treacherous for the specialist evacuation team of U.S. Army veterans, who was accompanied by the baby’s surrogate mother Katya, two doctors, two neonatal specialists, a nurse, and a Ukrainian ambulance crew.
Lenny and Moishe were born prematurely, needing care in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU). Since the babies arrived shortly after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, their lives were in even greater danger. Not only was their health an issue but their safety as well; there was hope they could be moved to a city further from the fighting, but they were too fragile to be easily moved, so the babies remained in the capital. As the boys grew stronger and troops advanced across Ukraine, their parents grew desperate.
The twin’s Ukrainian-born father, Alex Spektor, and his partner, Irma Nuñez, flew from their home in Chicago, Illinois, to Poland. They turned to Project Dynamo, a civilian rescue organization based in Tampa, Florida, for help. Operation Gemini was launched. One of the project’s co-founders, Bryan Stern, flew to Ukraine with his highly specialized evacuation team.
Stern, Spektor, and NPR maintained phone contact throughout Operation Gemini. The arduous journey started on Monday morning, and Russian shelling in the distance prompted Stern and his team to feel the pressure to hurry. They needed to get the babies in the ambulance quickly and get out of Kyiv.
Operation Gemini consisted of a three-vehicle caravan. The checkpoints were “touch-and-go because some of the men on their team are Ukrainians of military age who could have been conscripted to fight,” according to NPR.
The bottom line was getting out of Kyiv safely, to avoid problems that could challenge the twins’ lives. They made short stops to get fuel or to feed and check on Lenny and Moishe.
It took 13 hours for the Operation Gemini team to reach the Polish border. When Stern messaged they had reached the border, he said:
My blood pressure will finally be able to go back to normal once we get rid of this precious cargo.
Operation Gemini drove the final hour through an unseasonal snowstorm that blanketed the roads and made it difficult to see at night. It was about midnight when the motorcade, led by a Polish police car, pulled into the hospital campus. The ambulance was greeted by pink-gowned nurses who rushed out with small beds for Lenny and Moishe.
Once the boys were admitted to the new hospital, the team greeted Spektor. He was delighted to meet his sons. “They’re just tiny but amazing. Because in the photographs, they look so big. Oh, my God.” The joy that shined in his eyes could be seen behind his mask, explains NPR.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
NPR: A rescue team evacuates premature American twins from Kyiv in a daring mission; by Leila Fadel, Ari Shapiro, Patrick Wood, Arezuo Rezvani, and Matt Ozug
Independent: American couple’s surrogate twins saved in daring rescue from Ukraine; by Gino Spocchia
Project Dynamo: About
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Lyssa Erickson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by David Holt London Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License