Exhausted from the long journey, a young Ukrainian couple entrusts their cat Martin to the experienced hands of a California veterinarian. On the Polish-Ukrainian border, volunteers from all over the world help refugees by caring for their animals.
Named after the king of Latin pop, Ricky Martin, the two-year-old gray cat is not in the best shape.
“It was a very stressful period for him,” explains his owner, Anastasia Gerasimchuk, recalling the 30-hour journey to escape the fighting that was getting closer to their village in the Donetsk region. “He didn’t eat or drink anything.”
Volunteers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) give a feline nasty food and place it in a cage that is covered with blankets to give it some peace of mind. And let the young couple eat and breathe too.
– “Helping people through their animals” –
“You know, we don’t just help animals here,” says Andrey Yaroslav Kushnir. “We help people through their animals.”
Himself the son of a Ukrainian refugee who fled World War II to the United States as a child, the 34-year-old veterinarian claims he felt compelled to leave the comforts of his California life to help his neighbors and their household mates – in a rustic tent in Medyk, an important destination crossing the border between Ukraine and Poland.
Here we assess the health of animals and distribute everything you need for free: harnesses, leashes, muzzles, cages, food.
Stress, dehydration, wounds, fleas and worms… Dogs, cats, rodents, parrots, ferrets and other reptiles also bear the scars of the war launched by Russia on February 24th.
“Some have experienced the sounds and smells of war, and their owners tell us that now, as soon as there is noise, they react,” says Jennifer Gardner, program manager at Ifaw.
“Therefore, it is important that we have the right animal harnesses and cages in our stock so that they do not escape if they suddenly become stressed,” she adds.
– A slightly special menagerie –
Every day the tent accepts about sixty animals. A somewhat special menagerie that also contained four snails, each the size of a fist, transported in pierced Tupperware.
Their owner cannot let war tear them apart.
“We cleaned them, put them in a new box, fed them salad, and she was delighted,” says Diane Treadwell, another volunteer.
The refugees, she said, “threw all their belongings so that their best friend could get out of there.”
The cage is one hand smaller for carrying a suitcase.
– “happy” animals –
“In fact,” Andrei Yaroslav Kushnir emphasizes, “the animals that we see here, on this side of the border, were lucky: they were the ones who managed to cross the border.”
“On the other hand, the animals were abandoned by their owners who could no longer take care of them,” he says.
Jakub Kotovich will take care of them. In Przemysl, about ten kilometers from Medyka, this 32-year-old Polish veterinarian, co-founder of the ADA Foundation, dedicates part of his clinic to animals left behind in Ukraine.
Together with other organizations organizes convoys for the return of dogs and cats found in the war zones from Lviv.
He and his team are working to get them back on their feet before giving them up for adoption.
“Transportation is very long,” he notes. “From the east of Ukraine, this is one or two days in small cages, in which Ukrainians stuffed three or four cats. So it’s very stressful for them.”
Around him is a room in his clinic, lined with — spacious — boxes stacked on top of each other, in which about forty cats, including two young mothers, await the end of their health quarantine. Two young women provide them with food, fresh water and hugs.
Yakub Kotovich claims that he examined 900 Ukrainian dogs and cats in three weeks. As well as a small wounded white goat and a stork with a broken beak.
“The situation of animals in Ukraine was very bad already in peacetime,” he says. “So ever since the war started, it has become tragic.”