Kyiv Diary 5/16/22: Inside the Efforts to Help Ukraine’s Animals

Kyiv Diary, Latest
a woman poses with her dog

Moment is publishing regular updates from Helen, a Soviet American Jew living in Kyiv. Read all the diary entries here.

My friend Alla has a cute, intelligent dog named Geo. Geo is young and quite upbeat, but on the third day of the war he had a heart attack. I wouldn’t have imagined that animals are so sensitive to the happenings around them. When it happened, Alla called me right away, but finding an open veterinary clinic seemed to be an impossible task. Most of the population had fled Kyiv, including the veterinarians. We posted on Instagram and called all our friends, who started making calls as well. Our entire network was on a mission to save Geo. Finally, we found a vet who rushed to the clinic in the middle of the night. (Due to lack of employees, the clinic was closed even during the day.) The storage room with equipment and supplies was locked, and the vet didn’t have access. But she improvised, controlling the IV with her teeth. Alla and I will never forget this night, and this doctor. 

Geo is back on track and is as happy a dog as ever. Alla, who is involved in various animal rescue organizations, has organized a fund helping veterinarian clinics with supplies and medications, as well as with staff salaries. The treatments are usually quite expensive, but in wartime they are provided for free. Many vet clinics accept animals that are wounded, abandoned and exhausted; some are barely alive. Some of the staff took the pets home.

Although the war is very scary, there are always people who provide unexpected and essential support. But I will be honest: Sometimes I see more sympathy for animals than for people. People try to save all kinds of animals: There is a shelter for big and small dogs, wild animals from private rich houses, and animals that were abandoned in the zoo. My colleague managed to get 15 dogs out of an abandoned apartment in Irpin; 13 of them were puppies. They were alone in a zone where fighting and occupation had been going on for 15 days. But I am happy to report that all 15 dogs were taken by new owners that same day! 

I have been particularly impressed by the Gostomel Shelter, which hosts around 600 animals. The keepers there do their jobs with true love and unbidden compassion. This shelter was in poor condition even before the war, but nowadays matters are worse. The shelter was repeatedly shelled. Animals and employees were wounded. It was a catastrophe. For 16 days, the Gostomel population was without electricity and communication lines were cut off. Despite the financial support, no one could deliver food or a power generator. Eventually, a power generator was heroically delivered through the bombing—but that’s another story.

War is a terrible thing. In some people it brings out the worst; in others it brings out the best. As it turns out, there are many good people around us. The number of people who are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others is truly amazing. I believe people will cherish these feelings and move forward with them.

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