АвторAuthor: Yuliya Osadcha | Translation: Roman Klochko
20 May 2022
The photo with a girl keeping a group of dogs on leashes, including ones in wheelchairs, has already been published in many Ukrainian and foreign media. The main heroine of it is Anastasiia Tykha. During the evacuation from Irpin, she and her husband took out 14 dogs, a chameleon, spider, turtle, hamster, and reptiles. After that, they returned to the city four times and each time took out a dozen dogs and a pair of cats.
I am 20 years old and I have been living in Irpin for four and half years of my life. I am not a volunteer, but rather a veterinarian. Before the war, I was running a temporary animal shelter with medical care and dog training. Mostly sick animals were brought to me to correct their problems and organize some maintenance therapy. I have been doing this for four years, two of which have been spent on temporary sheltering of animals.
For example, a volunteer picks a sick animal, treats it, then it needs further medical care, but the animal can no longer stay in the clinic because it is too expensive. They bring the animal to me and it lives in my place while they look for a family for it. So I am neither veterinarian nor a volunteer, I’m something in between.
My husband, Artur, supports me in it. He was the first to suggest that I do this when I was looking for a job and a hobby. Although he wasn’t going to have even one dog before meeting me. We started with cats, then switched to wild cats, and then to dogs. We established a kind of hotel where we took dogs when people went on vacation, and then we started taking dogs from volunteers. And finally, two years later, we had started taking such dogs with psychological issues, dogs with disabilities.
Before the war, we had two cats at home, and during the war, this number rose to five. We are mostly focused on dogs because I realized that cats are not my cup of tea. Moreover, it turned out that my husband and I had allergies. We also had our animals: chameleon, turtle, spider, reptiles.
Until March 9, we were in Irpin. We did not want to leave the house, everyone hoped that we would be bypassed. Our animals are not easy, they are gotten accustomed to living here. We understood perfectly well that it would be very difficult for us and that we would not get everyone out.
We finally decided to leave when all communications in Irpen were turned off. With so many animals in the city, it became simply impossible to live and we decided to evacuate.
“My husband and I are very calm, intent people. We know that if something needs to be done, we will do it at any cost. We didn’t even think of leaving the dogs.”
We spent several days planning who would go with whom and where. It was not a last-minute decision. However, when it became clear that we needed to flee urgently, we gathered quickly. But before that everything was planned, we prepared medicines, sedatives, and backpacks. Found a place to go.
Slowly, we went out with all the animals. We had to reach the destroyed bridge because a car couldn’t get to us. We came out with 19 animals. When we reached the bridge we have 14 animals. Unfortunately, some of them ran home, others fled altogether. We had a very difficult dog, which only came out into the yard for the first time when he was 1.5 years old. We understood that he would be completely helpless outside. The animal had a very strong wildness gene. I’m sure the dog is still running somewhere, but we’ll never catch Dodya again.
We walked three kilometers along the Irpen with animals. It was very difficult. When we reached the bridge, journalists surrounded us and we couldn’t pass until they would take pictures. They asked where we were from, where we were going and what we were going to do. In the photo, I am very angry and quarreling with them. My husband quickly moved the photographers and we walked on.
There we were spotted by the territorial defense fighters. The men ran up to us, picked up the dogs, one by one, and we carried them across the bridge. A car was already waiting for us behind the bridge. Our friend, a volunteer, arranged it for us. We have been cooperating with her for the longest time. I had kept her disabled dogs which can be seen in the photo. She organized a place for us to live, a car that would take us. The evacuation took place thanks to her. Otherwise, we just wouldn’t go.
At first, we lived with our friends for a while, but three or four days later the photo became popular, journalists started calling and I was very surprised.
“It was thanks to this photo that we were offered to live with the dogs in another private house. We received calls from strangers who offered us help and even donated a terrarium for our chameleon.”
Aria, the chameleon, slept with me, rode my husband in the daytime, and we have even taken her to Kyiv with us. It’s because we can’t just leave her at home as she constantly needs to keep warm.
After leaving Irpen, we returned there more than once to pick up more animals. We returned for the first time in five days, because my nine-month-old beagle escaped during the evacuation. That’s how it happened. I was 100% sure that he returned home and was breaking through the Ukrainian checkpoint. A military man was listening to my pleas for two hours. When I was on the verge of bursting into tears, he said: “Pass”. We brought food to Irpen, then went around the city to collect animals.
We found a homeless dog who just followed us. Then his master, a well-known doctor, was found. He was evacuated by the Red Cross and didn’t manage to take his pet. Everything is fine with the animal, it joined its owner in Poland. We returned to the city several times: went in with food, went out with dogs.
The last trip to Irpen was the most memorable one. This was the day before the liberation of the city from the occupiers.
We arrived, I found another “loser” and when we were returning, we had already crossed the bridge and the bombing of Romanivka started. It was very intensive. We were hiding between a house and a car with animals in it. A piece of iron flew just between me and my husband, and we were covered with brick crumbs.
After that, we decided to wait until the Irpin would be liberated. Now, we are freely moving with the group of volunteers, collecting animals both on the streets and from certain houses. We bring several tons of food into the city and do everything we can.
“Dogs are my life. I have been with animals since childhood, my parents had a kennel. My parents also stayed with 27 dogs near Borodyanka, they didn’t run away. And only recently I was able to bring them food. We have a dog that has bitten off its paw from hunger, now it is with me, I am now treating the animal. My attitude to animals is hereditary.”
You know, when there was shelling, I had a shepherd, she didn’t want to go on the road. What I did do? I covered her with my body and just sat on the road because she didn’t want to go. She was paralyzed by fear. Everyone has their attitude to animals.
It was one thing when the shelling started but people fled on February 24 [the first day of the Russian invasion]. They left a cat or dog inside the apartment and then complained that the animals were starving. During the trip, I took out five small dogs: three chihuahuas, one half-breed Pekingese, and a spitz. I do not understand how they could be left? I would understand if it were an alabai or a huge German shepherd but when a chihuahua is sitting in a ruined house…
When you go with 20 dogs you have no time to be afraid. I can only be afraid that one of the dogs will run away and at the same time, I need to control them, this pack. I don’t have time to think that we might be shot or something.
Of those animals that were evacuated with us, only our dogs remained. The rest went home. Most animals are abroad – in Croatia, Italy, England, France, and Germany. They were taken away not by Ukrainians, but by foreigners. My acquaintance Snizhana takes care of these animals. She runs a charity fund “Pliushka”. She arranged all these things: took out her animals and my animals. We continue to do this now. Snizhana has just arrived from Poland. She found them places in a private shelter. All the animals I have at the moment are new, from occupied territories. They are injured and sick. Now I have a complete set of 30 animals.
Today we are already thinking about where to go – either to Brovary or to Irpin when communications will be turned on there. We are definitely not planning to go abroad or far from the capital. We have a job, and it is very much needed now.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Yuliya Osadcha | Translation: Roman Klochko