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Project Dynamo co-founder reflects on months in Ukraine upon return to Tampa

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Posted at 4:34 PM, Jul 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 05:40:15-04

TAMPA, Fla. — A leader of a Tampa-based nonprofit that’s been heading up rescue operations in Ukraine since the conflict with Russia began will return to Tampa Wednesday evening.

For more than five months, Bryan Stern, Co-Founder of Project Dynamo, has helped lead risky rescue operations in Ukraine.

“It’s going to be emotional. We started in August 2021, and I was on the road pretty much the whole time from August until January,” said Stern. “I was home for a couple of weeks, and then flew right to Ukraine, and I’ve been gone ever since, so I’ve been away from Tampa for almost a year, and it’s going to be strange that’s for sure.”

Stern shared that no two missions are the same, including Terry Gateley’s case. Gateley explained he went over as a missionary and got caught in the conflict.

The Tampa-based nonprofit, Project DYNAMO, is continuing to rescue people, including Americans, from Ukraine.

“Never felt comfortable trying to leave, was abducted there and released and spent a good four months after that with freedom within the city, but was very afraid to leave the city,” said Gateley. “This guy helped.”

Gateley said he was rescued by Project Dynamo earlier this month.

“I would be dead if it wasn’t for Project Dynamo,” said Gateley.

Project Dynamo, which is privately run and donor-funded, said to date, they’ve conducted more than 200 rescue operations in the most contested, violent, and Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine and transported them safely to neighboring countries.

“I spent over 20 years in the military, and it is ingrained in us that we don’t leave our people behind, ever, ever, ever,” said Stern.

Stern said as of Wednesday morning, he had 9,000 requests for help. So while he’s back in the U.S. for now, he explained the work isn’t done.

“I feel great to be home, although I’m not staying for very long. I’m going right back,” said Stern.