One Voice’s rescue mission for Ukraine’s cats

One Voice’s rescue mission for Ukraine’s cats

Zoe Cell

Since 24 February 2022, we have offered to help our Ukrainian partners to welcome the animals. This is the story of our first rescue.

Since 24 February, our teams have been taking action alongside our Ukrainian partners within European and international coalitions that we are part of. Stunned by the start of the war but aware of the danger for the animals — who would inevitably suffer in shelters in the short-term, to a certain extent, from rationing or even starvation, in addition to the risk of bombing — we have offered our help immediately. And when our Ukrainian friends under attack accepted the help we were offering them, we were there.

In the first weeks, the violence of the combat very much moved those in France as it did everywhere throughout the European Union. The generosity of French people was in abundance. And we can see, as can everyone in the media, the exile of millions of Ukrainians, their animals in rucksacks, refusing to leave them behind, while in France the return of the good old days and the lifting of health restrictions raised fears of the first abandonments…

Drawing by Pascal Vaucher de la Croix and Chatal Teano for One Voice - Noé 103Drawing by Pascal Vaucher de la Croix and Chatal Teano for One Voice – Noé 103

During exchanges with our Ukrainian colleagues, we learnt that numerous monetary donations and donations in kind have been collected, but that their main problem was not either food or money, but transport from the Polish border to their locality in the middle of the country. We are desperate to be able to help them. The support group has been established: the ‘Animals from Ukraine Task Force’ was born, regrouping NGOs from all European countries including One Voice on behalf of France.

Three weeks after the start of the war, it was finally possible to go there to secure the sixty or so cats from the UAnimals refuge, and to prepare for the unexpected, inherent to these situations. We still need to find a place for these animals to stay. We have asked our refuge partners in France as well as abroad.

One month after the start of the war in Ukraine, the rescue mission can begin

So on Thursday 24 March at 8:30am, a call for help arrived: around sixty cats needed to be evacuated from Ukraine. We therefore chartered two vans with two drivers in each so that they could take over the driving and so that they did not have to stop along the way. All of these people were equipped with pet carriers, rehydrated food, towels, large-sized carriers in case they were needed for dogs… and a van with seven seats for potential refugees and their animals — a cause close to One Voice, built around harmony between human beings, animals, and the planet. By 2pm the team was on their way.

Was there a need to quarantine in each country that they travelled through? What would the legal requirements be? Where would the meeting point be? A large part of the logistics was settled before departing, but even so there were still some uncertainties.

On Friday, after thirty hours on the road, the vans arrived in Poland. Our six team members met up in the vicinity of Krakow, around 270 kilometres from the Ukrainian border leading to Lviv, to finish assessing the situation and to have a rest for a few hours before D-day.

Today, twenty cats have been saved!

So at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning, our team met on the border closest to Lviv, where the checkpoint in Budomierz, French firefighters, and numerous facilities gave them advice.

Particularly, that the donations that we had brought should be properly labelled, with many packages going off due to lack of transport from the Polish border into Ukraine, since the flow is mainly in the other direction. The equipment and food were therefore able to return to Lviv with our Ukrainian friends. On site, we were also informed that the refugees authorised to pass the border should have an official place to stay to be able to cross. The only people present were therefore waiting for their friends. But it was better to be prepared for any eventuality than to have to deny anyone our help.

In the morning, our contact in Germany confirmed that they could pick up a number of cats on the journey back to their delegation, allowing a shorter journey for the animals. The main van then entered Ukraine, heading to Lviv, to fetch around twenty cats from the camp; a human can only legally bring five of them back to Poland at once… At midday, they were in the van, in the safety of the other side of the border, with passports in order.

The first part of the team therefore took care of the cats and, as we publish this article, they are now on their way to Berlin. They should arrive late at night to begin their new life. The other part of the team is waiting until tomorrow when it might be possible to retrieve the other surviving cats to take them far away from the war, under more favourable conditions. We have also kept the transport carriers for the dogs. Anything to be reactive and deliver the most effective aid.

Translated from the French by Joely Justice