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'They're strong, you know' | US twins born premature in Ukraine warzone will soon be home thanks to Austin nonprofit

Austin nonprofit VECINA helped rescue twins from the war in Kyiv, Ukraine. The boys were less than two weeks old.

AUSTIN, Texas — Some things cannot be done through a screen.

“Today, my sister taught me how to change a diaper, which is really tough, by the way,” Sasha Spektor said.

Spektor is a U.S. citizen, a professor in Georgia and a refugee from the Soviet Union. Now, he can add “dad” to the list of titles.

His twin boys were born through a surrogate near Kyiv, Ukraine.

Lenny and Moishe came at 32 weeks.

“I think that was the most surprising thing for me that my hand is basically the size of their body, and just, they’re really, really small,” Spektor said.

The twins were born as the Russian military drew near their hospital in Ukraine. The hospital had no bomb shelter and no basement.

During air raids at night, nurses and doctors rushed the boys across the street and into a church for safety.

The twins needed more intensive care, so the hospital transferred the boys to Kyiv. 

“They’re strong, you know,” Spektor said.

Spektor watched it all unfold through his phone.

It took teams coming together to get the boys out of Ukraine. It started in Austin with attorneys Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch and Lindsay Goldford Gray.

The two run VECINA, a nonprofit that mentors attorneys who don't practice immigration law but want to help with immigration cases.

“We are always looking for more volunteers,” Goldford Gray, CEO of VECINA, said.

Through donations, VECINA operates with a staff of three people and about 600 volunteers, both attorneys and those wanting to help attorneys with immigration cases.

Lenny and Moishe are U.S. citizens, but getting them out of Ukraine and into the United States requires a lot of legal work.

While Lincoln-Goldfinch and Goldford Gray poured over documents, they needed someone who would run towards danger.

“To be able to make a text from my dining room and say, ‘Hey, can you help this family?’ and to set that in motion is just really inspiring and powerful,” said Goldford Gray, VECINA CEO.

The attorneys called on Project Dynamo for the rescue. The group rescues people from warzones in Afghanistan and transports them to the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.

Project Dynamo coordinated the logistics on the ground. It made sure they had the safest route out of the country.

Within 48 hours, the boys made it to Poland safely. 

“You know, I became a father, I think, 11 days ago. But I haven't actually felt like a father yet … Because we had a task at hand – the most precious task at hand. Now, I'm ready to go learn what it’s like to be a father,” Spektor said.

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