Abandoned pets in the war in Ukraine: “What can dogs do for this?”
When people flee the war in Ukraine, they often have to leave their pets behind. Animal rights activists risk their lives to get suddenly unprotected animals to safety.
It’s already getting dark when Sascha Winkler drives his white minibus into the yard of an abandoned farm in Medyka, eastern Poland. Loud barking, anxious barking and pleading whining can be heard from the hold. “I have 23 dogs, many puppies,” says Winkler. Before dawn, the animal rights activist went to rescue abandoned dogs from war-torn Ukraine.
Now he is finally back in Poland and the dogs are safe. For now, they can live in a makeshift shelter set up by the Polish Centaurus Foundation on an abandoned farm in Medyka.
Less than two kilometers from the stables of an abandoned farm, human tragedies unfold. Every day, tens of thousands of refugees from Ukraine arrive at the Medyka-Scheginya checkpoint on the Polish-Ukrainian border. They are fleeing Russian missiles and bombs that are destroying their homeland. Polish border guards have counted 1.7 million refugees since the beginning of the war.
Overcrowded trains from Ukraine often don’t have room for pets
“When people have to run, many people leave their pets behind,” says Sascha Winkler. For the 35-year-old businessman from Chemnitz, this is the twelfth trip to Ukraine in search of animals. Overcrowded trains carrying refugees from Ukraine often have no room for dogs and cats. “Especially taking bitches with puppies is almost impossible.” According to Winkler, there are local animal shelters and animal rights activists in Ukraine who take in abandoned four-legged friends. But their possibilities are exhausted.
Therefore, in the morning he left with two other drivers to bring free animal feed to Ukraine and pick up dogs from the cities of Brod and Radekhiv near Lviv. According to him, Winkler is not afraid of war. “I was with the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan, I’ve seen worse.”
Dominik Nava brought five dogs from the western Ukrainian city of Stryi in his blue van. “Four puppies and their mother. A woman found them tied up in front of a church in Stryi,” says a 46-year-old man who runs a shelter for horses, donkeys and goats in Silesia.
A dozen volunteers from Poland, Ukraine, Germany and the US are helping to unload barred cages covered with woolen blankets from delivery vans. Many puppies with mothers. Animal advocates stroke frightened puppies and carefully transfer them to heated containers.
“My grandmother also had to flee as a child, and she could not take her black Pomeranian with her. She never allowed it – she talked about her “little Sea” all the time, says Stefanie Selmann from Munich. And quietly adds: “What can dogs do for this?”
The makeshift animal shelter in Medyka is just a transit point for dogs and cats, which are also brought here. Paul came from Dresden to take the animals to Germany. “As many as will fit in my car.” At home, he found a private animal shelter that would take her in. And several craftsmen and hostesses who are already looking forward to their new darling.