To be a human after all: How Ukrainians save animals, risking their lives during the war
The war exacerbates fear, desperation, and grief. But it also unleashes the endless source of kindness and compassion. Among those, whom we call “heroes,” are numerous people who take care of animals even at the risk of losing their own lives: evacuate them with having no place to go, feed and cure them in the occupied cities under shellings or calm during the bombings.
Together with UAnimals, we tell the stories of those who remain human after all.
UAnimals is a volunteer initiative that protects animals’ rights and during the full-scale war has been rescuing animals, helping shelters and volunteers who undertake this mission in occupied territories financially, providing them with food and trying to evacuate animals to other countries or to safer places in Ukraine. Everyone can donate UAnimals to save those who could not survive without human help via this link.
Alina is saving animals in a front-line city and calms them during missile shelling
“Missiles were flying overhead today. The animals were running around in terror, and I tried to calm some, then the rest. The cats hid. But anyway, we hope and are really looking forward to the end of this war soon,” says Alina who lives in Sloviansk — the front-line city in Donetsk region that is as of July 5, 2022, just 7 km away from the Russian army.
Alina is saving abandoned animals, a number of which grows fast every day in the city as people flee and leave their animals behind. The woman is currently taking care of 50 dogs, 5 puppies and 12 cats.
Snizhana feeds 26 cats and 15 dogs under shelling despite lacking means for living
Snizhana saves animals in the occupied Kherson region. She has been rescuing animals from the street for many years, providing them with medical aid and neutering. But now it has become almost impossible as prices have risen sky high in the city, and she and her husband have lost their jobs.
Currently, Snizhana is taking care of 26 cats and 15 dogs. Some animals live in her yard. One of Snizhana’s cats is called Murka. The owner abandoned the animal in the first days of the war. The woman found the cat with an open fracture and treated her.
Snizhana is risking her own life every day feeding animals under fire but she never stops.
A family in the occupied city rescues and treats animals with wounds and disabilities
While military actions are actively carried out around the occupied Nova Kakhovka, Nataliia and her husband take care of 32 pets, some of them with disabilities. They have been helping animals for a long time before the full-scale war, feeding, neutering, and hosting them while providing medical aid or searching for shelter.
Natalia tells Jack, the dog, was scheduled for a paw operation on February 25, 2022. However, because of the war the couple couldn’t do it in time, and the dog got his paw amputated. Three more dogs have found a new home in Natalia’s house. Recently, the couple found one more dog with a sick eye. They took him home and are currently trying to cure the eye.
Natalia and her husband do not know what will happen tomorrow, so they just keep on saving up for the fodder and helping animals as much as they can.
Tetiana saves more and more animals in critical conditions while looking after 31 dogs
Nika, the dog, was shot with a rifle. The bullet got stuck in the animal’s tooth, splitting it in half. Now Nika is learning to trust people again, so for the time being she will be staying with Tetiana and is not yet looking for a new family.
Tetiana from Kryvyi Rih is a real rescuer of animals. Even before the war, the woman took care of stray animals: she fed, treated, neutered them, and found new families for the pets.
With the onset of hostilities, the number of dogs in need has increased dramatically. The volunteer took in 15 puppies from the street, some of them were thrown out by locals; she then rescued some dogs from an irresponsible owner, and found other animals in critical condition. The woman is not afraid to take in seriously ill animals and is currently looking after 31 dogs.
Tosha is a puppy that was thrown out into the street. The poor baby was so hungry that he ate disposable plastic plates because they smelled of meat. At the moment everything is fine with the little guy and Tetiana is taking care of him and treats him.
Another Tetiana’s wards are Belka and Gray — dogs with disabilities that were abandoned by their previous curator. They had severe injuries: a pelvic fracture and a spinal fracture. Tetiana had them operated on, and the animals are now living with her.
Anastasia and Artur evacuated from the bombed city with 15 dogs, cats in supermarket carts and disabled pets on hands
A photo of Anastasia with numerous dogs struck people all around the world in March 2022. Together with her husband Artur, they evacuated 15 dogs, including a disabled one, 5 cats, a chameleon, a turtle, a hamster, and a spider out of the war-torn city of Irpin near Kyiv.
Before the war, Anastasia and Artur were picking up homeless dogs on the streets, treating them and searching for new families. Among the wards of the volunteers there were many dogs with disabilities that suffered from road accidents or human cruelty. The couple was buying carts for the animals and socializing with them.
After the full-scale war started, Irpin appeared to be constantly bombarded and shelled, tanks moved through the streets. The city was under siege: without water and food. It was equally dangerous to stay in the city and leave. But the couple decided to evacuate with a large number of animals despite not having a place to go.
“Animals are like children to me. You never abandon children,” says Anastasiia. She recalls how they were trying to move across the whole city with dogs on leashes pulling in different directions, pets on carts and cats in a supermarket cart. The woman broke her finger during the evacuation, her whole body was in pain for a long time because the animals were pulling her in different directions.
On the city outskirts, the couple received help and managed to reach the safe place. On their way, they lost 4 dogs, including their own dog, Zeus. So a few days later, Anastasiia and Artur returned to Irpin on foot to find the animals. They found two, feeding everyone they could on their way, and took several abandoned animals with them. Now the couple lives with their animals in a house in Kyiv.