Other armies: Volunteers risking their lives to help Ukraine’s dogs, cats and other animals

They don’t wear uniforms, at least not in disguise. They certainly do not travel armed, unless they have a love for animals stronger than the fear of being killed by a Russian sniper or in a bomb attack. They are also an army, but consisting of many volunteers who have conducted many operations to save thousands of dogs, cats, zoos and farm animals and any other animal trapped in the brutality of war in more than two months of war. And behind them, field volunteers, many people who have donated thousands of euros to help them.

It is impossible to determine how many animals have been rescued, helped out of the country or directly aided in Ukraine since the war began. What is certain is that every day, without stopping, public transport, vans, trucks and private cars go back and forth in the countries of the European Union to bring help to all the animals in distress.

Organizations such as NPA, OIPA, and Save the Dogs immediately began assisting local Ukrainian agencies with food and medicine, pledging in Poland and Romania, among the first destinations where the human river of refugees has brought your pets. . And so next to the dining table, there were always bags with clothes for the little ones and toys for the little ones to play with, as well as veterinary equipment to treat them from physical injuries and to help them from strong stress. They were under.

There are many rescue missions, as dangerous as they claim, that have been carried out in recent months: like the truck that left a zoo east of Kiev where it loaded six lions, six tigers, two caracals and an African wild dog. The two-day trip, unknown to the Russians ending in sightseeing, to reach Poland where a safe structure was waiting for them. And then there’s the story of Jakub Kotovich, a 32-year-old Polish veterinarian who took part in a five-day rescue operation to snatch 200 dogs and 60 cats, never sleeping. Almost all of them came alive to his clinic and shelter who decided to host them.

And there are those who have decided to stay on the battlefield, to go and look for the end. These animals, especially dogs and cats, have been left alone and abandoned to their fate by the soft sofas pampered by their owners from one day to the next. Thus a team of volunteers like the “Kyiv Zoo Patrol” was born, not because the zoos worked there, but because they released animals. It all started with a couple, Dmitry and Anya, who decided to take care of the animals left in the homes of the fleeing Ukrainians. In a short time, the two are joined by other people: neither with a history of volunteering or relief, but mostly coming from the world of cinema as directors, producers or screenwriters. On social networks, they collect reports and then go to that place: they dig holes in the walls to feed and quench the pets trapped inside. When they have permission from their owners, or the situation is very serious, they break down the door. Hundreds of interventions are made every day.

Alexei Survatsev is among those who have decided to save dogs and cats in distress. A rich man with a thick beard, shaved at the buttocks and gathered in a kind of hut at the top. Physically sculpted, he almost looks like a character from a Viking movie. He was already known in Ukraine because he participated in the local edition of “Dancing with the Stars” and was a three-time striptease champion. Now on social media he is acclaimed as a hero as he travels to bomb-ravaged cities, from Irpin to Borodanka, entering homes with Maya or desperate barks who do not understand why anyone left that hell overnight.

But some of the many people involved in rescuing animals have done so at the cost of their lives. Anastasia Yalanskaya, 26, was killed along with two other volunteers in early March. On the way to a shelter in Bucha, their car was smashed by Russian bullets. The dogs had not eaten for three days. Sasha, the mother of a 12-year-old boy, did not want to leave Kherson in southern Ukraine to care for dogs at a local shelter. He was hit by a bomb that hit his home. Two employees of Feldman Ecopark, located near the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, refused to leave the animals in cages. They were found in a room with bullets. These and many more, whose stories and names are unknown, who have opposed the fight for the weakest love.

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