American twin boys born prematurely via a surrogate in Ukraine have now been safely evacuated — in their incubators — from the bloody war zone.
Lenny and Moishe Spektor were transported to Poland on Monday from a Kyiv hospital by a US military veteran and a team of medical experts in a mission dubbed “Operation Gemini.”
“The war didn’t want to let them go but we got them out,” their father, Alex Spektor, told NPR just moments after the twins arrived in Poland.
The boys were born seven weeks early on Feb. 25 — a day after Vladimir Putin gave the orders for Russian troops to invade Ukraine.
As the Russians stepped up their bombing attacks, the boys’ Chicago-based parents — Spektor and his partner, Irma Nuñez — were frantically trying to find a way to get the newborns out of the besieged Ukrainian capital.
Following a daring and hours-long rescue effort by the non-profit group Project Dynamo, the twins finally crossed over the border into Poland late Monday where they were met by their father.
“They’re just tiny but amazing. In the photographs they look so big … I just had to look at them and be saturated with their presence,” Spektor said.
The treacherous rescue effort was led by Project Dynamo‘s Bryan Stern and his specialist team of US Army veterans.
It involved a three-vehicle convoy made up of two doctors, two neonatal specialists, a nurse and a Ukrainian ambulance crew to help care for Lenny and Moishe en route.
When the boys were placed into the ambulance in their incubators first thing Monday morning, the rescue crew almost immediately encountered shelling as they made their dash for the border.
“[The Russians] were shelling something else, but it was close enough that the ground was shaking,” Stern told NPR.
“I mean, the artillery doesn’t care what it is — it’s gonna land where it lands. The artillery doesn’t say like, ‘Oh, well, there’s babies here, so we’ll go somewhere else’.”
After passing through more than three dozen checkpoints in Ukraine and bracing a late-night snowstorm, the crew crossed the border about 13 hours later.
The boys are currently being cared for in the newborn intensive care unit in a hospital in Rzeszow, a town about an hour from the Poland-Ukraine border.
Their mother is now preparing to fly from Chicago to meet them.
They are expected to remain in Poland until the boys are strong enough to fly back to the US.