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U.S. nonprofit group evacuates first Americans from Ukraine

A busload of 23 evacuees was en route to a country on Ukraine’s western border.
Project Dynamo is working to evacuate Americans from Ukraine following Russia's invasion of the country.
Project Dynamo is working to evacuate Americans from Ukraine after Russia's invasion.Courtesy Project Dynamo

A U.S. nonprofit group that evacuated Americans from Kabul is helping U.S. citizens and residents flee Ukraine, with its first busload of 23 evacuees en route to a country on Ukraine's western border.

According to the group, Project Dynamo, the bus left for the border at 8 a.m. local time, or 1 a.m. ET.

“They are currently traversing the Ukrainian countryside and trying to make their way to an American embassy in a neighboring country,” said James Judge, a spokesman for Project Dynamo. “The evacuation began minutes after our team on the ground physically felt the nearby explosions in Kyiv last night.” 

Project Dynamo was co-founded by Bryan Stern and named after the British evacuation of Dunkirk, France, in 1940. Stern, a former government employee who runs a consulting firm in Tampa, Florida, said he formed Dynamo in the middle of the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan in August. His group has helped thousands of people leave that country, a process that continues.

When Ukraine started to go “sideways,” Stern said, a donor asked him to assist with a Ukraine evacuation, as well. Stern has been in Ukraine for more than a week, fielding requests that had begun to mount even before Russia attacked in force.

“If an American asks me for help,” Stern said, “I say, ‘Yes.’”

Stern said that in Afghanistan, “we had to build a mousetrap in the middle of a catastrophe.” Project Dynamo now has practice in moving large numbers of people out of danger zones. In addition to sending buses to the border, Stern was able to get some people onto commercial flights before the Russian attack. His group was able to plan secondary and tertiary routes, establish safe houses, find buses and test for Covid — applying lessons it learned in Afghanistan.

“We have lived this already,” he said. “We’ve already seen this movie before.” 

He said that in Ukraine, however, the U.S. government was more upfront about warning people to flee the country ahead of the violence, a bluntness he appreciated. 

“This time they were honest and said, ‘We aren’t going to come and get you.’”