Abandoned cats in Ukraine amidst debris of war. © Katya 2023, White Paw Volontary
In the midst of the chaos and devastation that unfolds in Ukrainian regions hit hard by missiles, weaponized drones or even occupation, there exists a silent suffering that often goes unnoticed – the plight of innocent animals. While the headlines focus on human casualties and displacement, the untold stories of pets left behind in the wake of conflict reveal a heart-breaking reality.
As families are uprooted from their homes, forced to flee to safer havens, their beloved pets often become unintended victims of war. Left behind or abandoned due to the impossibility of accommodating them during the arduous journey, these animals are left to fend for themselves in a hostile environment.
The violence that engulfs war zones poses a direct threat to these defenseless creatures. Bombs, shelling, gunfire, and landmines wreak havoc on their lives, causing severe injuries and often even death. From a German animal protection organization which maintained animal shelters in Ukraine long before the war, we read that in 2022, “areas north of Kiev were quickly occupied. The very centrally located boarding kennel in Kyiv faced many attacks nearby. The animals were in a permanent panic, they were shivering and shaking, could not eat or regurgitated their food. They tried to bury themselves in the concrete floor and destroyed their kennels in fear of their lives. Some dogs that were placed in foster homes in the north starved to death at that time.” This ought to happen, as the organization had lost contact with both their staffers and the animals.
Scarcity of Food and Water
One of the gravest challenges faced by these animals is the scarcity of food and water. With disrupted supply chains and limited resources, both humans and animals struggle to find sustenance. Literally everything serves to conquer the hunger of the pets – mud, dirt, and garbage. Starvation and dehydration become daily battles for survival, taking a toll on those animals’ physical well-being. Contaminated water sources, overcrowding, and the lack of veterinary care further exacerbate their suffering. Without vaccinations or medical attention, these animals face an uphill battle against infections and debilitating ailments.
Lack of Shelter
Shelter, or rather the lack thereof, presents another challenge for these innocent victims. Displaced families struggle to find adequate shelter for themselves, leaving their pets exposed to the harsh elements. From scorching heat to bitter cold, torrential rain to heavy snow, these animals endure the extremes of weather, leading to hypothermia, heatstroke, and other weather-related health complications.
Intentional Violence and Abuse
Tragically, some animals fall victim to intentional violence and abuse. Newspapers have reported that pets of escaped and killed Ukrainian citizens came across adversarial troops, who lived out sadistic fantasies on the defenseless creatures, burning the signs of war propaganda into their fur and skin. The very fabric of humanity is tested when these defenseless creatures become targets of cruelty, subjected to torture and mistreatment. It is among the darkest and most haunting aspects of war. “Woe to man if even one animal sits in the Last Judgment”, warned poet Christian Morgenstern.
Transport to a better life
The tragedy of war requires countermeasures to nurture and heal the emotional distress and trauma experienced by those helpless animals. With Germany-based animal welfare organization White Paw, this Pentecost holiday 2023, a team from 21strategies collaborated to evacuate six abandoned animals – Feline, Fortuna, Duffy, Oliver, Kira and a little dog called “Graf”, collecting them at the Ukrainian border to transport and unite them in Germany with new families in a safe and caring new home.
Six pets of countless suffering creatures – much, so much remains to be done. It is incumbent upon us to shed light on the often-overlooked plight of these innocent animals. Their silent suffering amidst the chaos of war demands our attention, compassion, and collective efforts to protect and alleviate their hardships. As we hope for peace and stability in Ukraine, let us not forget the voiceless victims – the animals who endure hardships beyond measure. Their lives matter, too, and it is our responsibility to ensure their well-being alongside the broader humanitarian endeavors. Only then can we begin to heal the wounds inflicted by war, both seen and unseen.