HOUSTON — Two babies born in September and sent to a Russian state-run orphanage are now in Texas with their new parents thanks to a dramatic rescue, according to Project DYNAMO.
The Texas couple, reportedly from the Dallas area, worked with a surrogate who lived in eastern Ukraine. The woman fled the violence there and made her way to Saint Petersburg, Russia where she gave birth in early September.
Instead of turning the twins over to their parents, the hospital sent the baby boy and girl to a Russian orphanage. Their parents in Texas were devastated.
The family worked tirelessly to bring their babies home. U.S. government officials were sympathetic but couldn't help. After several weeks, a friend with the U.S. diplomatic corps suggested they call Project DYNAMO.
The veteran-led group based in Tampa, Florida said it has completed "hundreds of missions in the war-torn regions of Ukraine and Afghanistan." But they'd never rescued babies before. They dubbed the mission PATHFINDER and went to work.
Project DYNAMO founder Bryan Stern flew to Estonia and traveled to the Russian border town of Narva. There, Project DYNAMO said they devised a plan and organized logistics. Within a week, they successfully retrieved the babies from the orphanage on Tuesday and crossed the border back to safety.
The Dallas-area couple was waiting anxiously in Estonia to see their two-month babies.
"I'm about to meet my twins for the first time," the excited mom said as she walked toward the bus where her husband and babies were waiting.
She said they'd been trying to get pregnant for seven years.
“Once again, the Project DYNAMO team came through when others could not,” said Stern. “I’m always proud of my team, but I’m especially proud of them after completing our first mission inside of Russia. Had we not rescued the twins, who knows what their fate and future would be or if their parents would have ever met them."
'Made our family whole'
The parents, who asked not to be named, were on their way home from Estonia with their babies on Wednesday. They are beyond grateful to celebrate the holiday season together as a family.
“We are so thankful for the miracle Project DYNAMO made for us,” they said. “We have been incredibly frustrated and stressed since our babies were born, with trying to get them home to us to make our family. Project DYNAMO cut through the red tape and got the job done at light speed. Project DYNAMO made our family whole, and we’ll never forget that.”
'We have so much to be thankful for'
Stern is also giving thanks this holiday season after conducting dangerous missions in Ukraine and Afghanistan. The group also helped rescue people after Hurricane Ian pounded parts of Florida.
“I have learned that we all have so much to be thankful for,” said Stern. “I’m thankful we are not stuck surrounded by the Taliban, thankful that we are not being shot at or bombed by the Russians, thankful that our children and families are safe, thankful that our homes are standing and not flooded, thankful we have freedom and the rule of law, and thankful that we are citizens of the United States of America.”
Founded in 2021 after the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan, Project DYNAMO focuses primarily on areas where the U.S. government doesn’t operate for various reasons. They conducted the first air-rescue missions from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control.
Back in July, the group rescued a Houston missionary captured by the Russians in Ukraine. Terry Gateley, 63, was working at an orphanage for disabled and underprivileged kids when he was grabbed off the street.
He spent eight days being tortured both physically and mentally.
“When someone rescues you like from the situation I was in, which was for sure death, it just brings you back to life," Gately told KHOU 11 when he returned home. "I don’t know what else to say. It’s a good feeling, for real.”
Those interested in donating to or learning more about Project DYNAMO can do so by visiting www.projectdynamo.org.