Story #95. Saving Animals During the War

July 17, 2023
Volunteers Kateryna and Martha started an Instagram page to help as many homeless animals as possible in Odesa Oblast during the war.
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Kateryna and Martha have been independently helping animals in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Odesa Oblast, for years.

On the 24th of February, the Russian invasion caught them off guard and forced both women to band together to continue doing what they used to, even though it was no easy feat in unfamiliar wartime conditions.

On the first day of the full-scale war in Ukraine, Kateryna had many foster pets. One of them was a cat in a critical condition who needed immediate medical help in Odesa.

"On February 24, all vet clinics I knew were closed, because of panic, perhaps. No appointments were possible, no vets were available, and I had no idea what to do," remembers Kateryna. 

That's when Martha, who had more experience at that time and whom Kateryna already knew, stepped in to help find a doctor willing to operate. Following this, the two women decided to help animals together and started their own Instagram page to publicize their efforts.

Many people fled Ukraine in fear of Russian aggression, but some were unable or refused to take pets with them. As a result, not only did many people lose their homes on February 24, but lots of animals also became homeless in a day.

"Some people who helped us or who cared for animals in their area packed their belongings and moved away. The issue was that only they knew these animals, what was wrong with them, how to treat them, etc.

We felt as if there was no one to expect help from, as if we were one on one with pretty much all the animals in our town," Kateryna adds.

But when the volunteers launched their Instagram, they were astounded by the number of people willing to help them despite the ongoing war.

Many users subscribed to their page, reposted important information, and some offered help in distributing the pet food or the much-needed medication.

Despite the fact that many Ukrainians donate their personal funds to support Ukrainian soldiers throughout the whole war, Kateryna claims that there are still enough people who want to care for animals and donate to their needs.

"One thing I can say for sure is that people respond quickly when something is urgent. For example, when an operation must be done right now and right here, like when an animal has a fracture or some other serious injury.

Of course, there are times when it is extremely difficult to collect the needed funds. For the sake of comparison, it could take us about a week to raise money, and that's just for animal feed, which amounts to about 5000 UAH ($135)," explains Kateryna.

As their work is not sheltering but feeding and treating those homeless animals, sometimes the two women have to keep some pets at their own homes. For example, while recovering.

Another option is to look for those who may shelter hurt pets for a period of time.

This and many other situations may be recalled from their activity, but the unchanging fact is that help is always needed, and in a variety of ways.

Kateryna notices that those who help are often the same people who have always helped, donated money, and stayed in touch.

"Thanks to these devoted subscribers, we continue to save these little lives," she said.

Yelyzaveta Dzhulai
Journalist at UkraineWorld