Volunteers work to evacuate orphaned children in eastern Ukraine: ‘A modern-day holocaust’

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Volunteers and groups of veterans have headed to one of the most dangerous places on earth to help evacuate orphaned children caught in the crosshairs of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in eastern Ukraine.

Speaking to Fox News Digital on Saturday, Ukrainian Vlad Finn and Army veteran Tyler Merritt discussed the heartbreaking work they and a unit of volunteer American veterans with the Aerial Recovery Group are doing to help some of the most vulnerable in Ukraine.

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A resident searches for personal belongings in a building destroyed during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Borodyanka, Ukraine.
(AP/Vadim Ghirda)

“The idea is to get them out of an area that is besieged and/or very dangerous, right – bombings, gunfire, bad humans killing women and children,” explained Merritt. “Get them out of these controlled areas.

As a former member of the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Merritt said he’s seen his share of war-torn nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, South America South and countries he couldn’t name.

But the army veteran turned founder of the Nine Line Foundation says the action he has seen in previous armed conflicts is “nothing compared to what is happening in eastern Ukraine. “.

“It’s a modern day holocaust with modern warfare,” he said.

Finn, who tragically ended up in a Ukrainian orphanage at the age of 10, is a translator and volunteer and works to evacuate orphaned children from dangerous areas – often in eastern Ukraine – to safe points in western Ukraine.

The Ukrainian native was adopted by an American couple when he was 15, but says he sees himself in the children who had to face the harsh reality brought on by Putin’s invasion.

“Let’s say this happened 15 years ago, 16 years ago – I would have been one of those orphans rescued by Aerial Recovery and everyone who helps with these rescue missions,” he said. he explains.

Finn’s background doesn’t just mean he knows how to navigate Eastern Ukraine, he has a unique perspective on what it’s like to be an orphan.

The couple explained that the volunteer group does not place orphans outside Ukraine for two reasons: community and legal reasons.

Tyler Merritt volunteers to save orphans in Ukraine as the war with Russia continues.

Tyler Merritt volunteers to save orphans in Ukraine as the war with Russia continues.
(Tyler Merritt, Founder of the Nine Line Foundation)

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International adoptions become trickier and slower when a third country is involved, Merritt explained. And keeping orphaned children together is a priority for the Air Recovery Group.

“When they’re transported to the western end – to safer areas – you try to find similar environments so they can be in groups, stay together,” Finn said, adding that “Aerial Recovery doesn’t separate the orphanages or children or anything that was already part of a group.”

The pair noted that the situation across Ukraine is extremely dangerous. If people want to help, they shouldn’t go to this war-torn country alone. Instead, they should contact humanitarian groups, donate funds or offer medical services if they can, they said.

More than 600 orphaned children have been evacuated by volunteers since the start of the war more than six weeks ago. Despite recent warnings that the already deadly war is set to get even more brutal, the volunteers say they are going nowhere.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Merritt told Fox News Digital.

Tyler Merritt volunteers to save orphans in Ukraine as the war with Russia continues.

Tyler Merritt volunteers to save orphans in Ukraine as the war with Russia continues.
(Tyler Merritt, Founder of the Nine Line Foundation)

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The couple were unable to share details of the areas of operation or how they are working to get the children to safety due to extreme security risks.

“They strategically target nongovernmental organizations. They specifically target women and children, and they specifically target journalists,” Merritt explained. “You have mercenaries who support the Russian military and who do things that no human should ever do to another human.”

Despite Putin’s brutal efforts that have been deemed war crimes by US, Ukrainian and NATO officials, the army veteran said there is still a “strong will to fight them”.

US defense officials have warned that Russia is considering adding 60,000 more recruits to its combat force as it plans to move towards eastern Ukraine, with an official warning that it will would act as a “knife fight”.

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A Ukrainian serviceman poses with a Russian beret he scavenged from destroyed Russian military vehicles on his weapon at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, Ukraine, April 2, 2022.

A Ukrainian serviceman poses with a Russian beret he scavenged from destroyed Russian military vehicles on his weapon at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, Ukraine, April 2, 2022.
(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Merritt said the war in Ukraine is a “pure test of good and evil”, adding that, despite the atrocities inflicted across the country, he considers “their spirit to be extremely high”.

Finn and Merritt intend to return to Ukraine to continue their support in the near future.