Conflicts & War

The Ukrainian woman taking in animals abandoned amid war

By Luis Lidon

Merefa, Ukraine, Jun 30 (EFE).- As the war rages in Ukraine, caring for animals might be considered trivial by many, but that is not the case for Lara Bezvesilna.

When the eastern Ukrainian city of Merefa was evacuated amid Russia’s invasion, abandoned cats and dogs started turning up on Bezvesilna’s doorstep, so she turned her house and the land around it into a makeshift shelter for more than 60 cats and dogs.

Before the war, she already had a dozen cats and dogs, as well as three turtles and 100 hundred pigeons, ducks, and chickens.

Now, the number of animals at her home grows every day, and she has a unique name for each one of them.

“The more I get to know people, the more I love animals,” Bezvesilna, who worked as a cleaner before the war, tells Efe.

“They would never abandon you, even in a war. Many abandoned animals in the area stay here and do not leave their home, even if it is empty, because they are waiting for their owners,” the 52-year-old adds.

Since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, almost 15 million people are estimated to have been displaced in Ukraine, a third of whom have left the country.

Many animal shelters have shut down and people have left their pets behind in the wake of the violence.

“Animals are part of what we have of humanity, if you take care of an animal you have to accept that it is part of your life and that how you treat it defines you as a human being,” she stresses.

The first weeks of the war were hectic because many people fled Merefa in fear of Russia’s advances in Kharkiv.

“On the platforms of the train station, they left cats and dogs in their carriers, sometimes even tied up inside the houses, which in many cases were left for dead,” she points out.

“They could have given up a suitcase, but what they did was leave behind the animals they used to take care of.

“They don’t think about the animals but they do think about taking more things, more clothes, more junk from the house, but not about taking a living being that shared life with them.”

These animals suffer stress from bombs and war, in addition to the trauma of being abandoned by their owners.

“I try to understand humans but people should also understand animals. They also get scared when the sirens sound and they don’t know what is happening,” she continues.

Bezvesilna shelters 20 cats and three dogs inside her home because they feel safer there, while the rest are outside.

Two animal organizations in the region provide her with food on a regular basis to help her with expenses.

Bezvesilna says she loves all the animals she is sheltering the same but highlights that she pays more attention to the older ones.

Her love and dedication to the animals have been criticized by some neighbors but she says that if those who criticize her are reincarnated as a cat or a dog, they will go ask someone like her for help. EFE

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