Anastasiia Yalanskaya & two others shot after delivering food to dog shelter near battle front
KYIV, Ukraine––Anastasiia Yalanskaya, 26, on March 4, 2022 became the second animal advocate known to have been killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Yalanskaya, 26, “was delivering food to a dog shelter in Bucha,” 18 miles northwest of Kyiv, the Ukranian national capital, in the Russian invasion path, “when she was shot and killed alongside two men she had been volunteering with,” Ashleigh Stewart reported for Global News,
“Friends do not know why she was targeted,” Stewart said, “but believe Russian troops are increasingly killing civilians at random as a way to scare the population into submission.”
Shelter was “without supplies for three days”
The dog shelter in Bucha “had been without supplies for three days. Yalanskaya’s final Instagram story, posted just hours before her death, shows her sitting in the back seat of a vehicle, smiling into the camera, beside bags of dog food.
“Yalanskaya’s best friend, Anastasiia Hryshchenko,” Stewart continued, “who evacuated to Vinnytsia, 250 kilometres southwest of Kyiv, raised the alarm. When Yalanskaya didn’t respond [to text messages] for several hours, she contacted the father of a man Yalanskaya had been volunteering with. The trio were due to return to his house after their trip.
“He told her he found their car, riddled with bullets, not far from his house, Hryshchenko says. They had delivered the dog food and had almost gotten home.”
The death of Anastasiia Yalanskaya and her two companions followed by three days the death of Natasha Derkach, killed on March 1, 2022 in Dnipro.
“Dnipro is located in south central Ukraine, and has been the target of heavy shelling,” the Greek organization Penny Marathon posted to Facebook.
Derkach “worked with a team run by Olga Umanchyck,” Penny Marathon said.
“They are trying to keep Dnipro’s vet clinic open to attend to many of the rescue dogs currently in its care.”
Lions, tigers, caracals, & African wild dog evacuated
Several war correspondents including Ed Wight of the British-based Daily Mail on March 3, 2022 reported about the arrival at the city zoo in Poznan, Poland, of “six lions, six tigers, two caracals, and an African wild dog from a sanctuary east of Kyiv,” which none of the reports identified by name.
Also caught between the Russian tanks and Kyiv, sanctuary director Natalie Popova asked Poznan zoo director Ewa Zgrabczyńska for help, Wight recounted, then made her way west into Poland over the next two days, evading Russian bombers and artillery.
More than 70 animals appear to have been left behind.
Elephant on sedatives
Thousands of animals, meanwhile, are reportedly trapped at the Kyiv Zoological Park, “next to a key military installation and possibly in the path of a Russian push into the capital,” wrote Washington Post correspondents Siobhán O’Grady and Kostiantyn Khudov on March 6, 2022.
“Horace the Asian elephant is so terrified of explosions that he’s been put on sedatives,” O’Grady and Khudov said. “The zebras are being kept inside after they panicked at the sound of shelling and ran directly into a fence. And Maya the lemur is so overwhelmed that she abandoned her newborn baby this week — nearly killing him.
“Fearing the worst — and seeking shelter from attacks in their own neighborhoods — around 50 staff members have moved into the sprawling facility to care for the animals around-the-clock, bringing some 30 family members with them,” O’Grady and Khudov continued.
“They take cover during air raid sirens in the zoo’s makeshift shelters, one in a bird enclosure and another in an unfinished aquarium,” O’Grady and Khudov said. “But animals as large as elephants or giraffes cannot be moved below ground.”
The Feldman Ecopark in Kharkiv, including the Bat Rehabilitation Center operated by Bats Ukraine, has reportedly already come under direct attack.
Founded in 2013, the Bat Rehabilitation Center describes itself as “a unique organization in Ukraine which helps humans and bats to peacefully co-exist in big urban areas,” with a staff of “professional biologists and veterinarians who rescue bats from all over Ukraine 365 days a year, handling from 1,000 to 3,000 bats per year.
Unfortunately, Feldman Ecopark posted to Facebook, some of the resident animals were injured, some were killed, and with “Fighting still going on in the Feldman Ecopark area, unfortunately, the losses are not final yet.”
Near the bear sanctuary operated by Four Paws [Vier Pfoten] at Domazhyr, west of Lviv, near the Polish border, “Air attacks have been reported,” Four Paws/Vier Pfoten posted to social media. “Our dedicated team stayed at the sanctuary in order to care the 29 bears in our care.
“Besides operating our bear sanctuary, our team in Ukraine has been working with strays for many years,” Four Paws/Vier Pfoten continued. “In 2021, we sterilized and vaccinated more than 3,000 homeless dogs and cats, and provided medical care to many more. In order to protect our team, we had to pause these activities.
“We are looking for ways to help these dogs and cats as the situation allows it,” Four Paws/Vier Pfoten stipulated. “We are not leaving them behind. We are ready and prepared to help as much as we can.
“Our team in Ukraine is assessing the situation and planning our next steps based on the circumstances. Despite the terrifying circumstances, all are doing well––humans and bears alike,” Four Paws/Vier Pfoten concluded.
“A fair bit of cats & dogs”
Apart from the murder of Yalanskay and her two as yet unnamed male fellow shelter volunteers, and alarming as the zoo and wildlife sanctuary news is, most mass media reports from Ukraine about animals during the first two weeks of the Russian invasion have been relatively upbeat.
But the upbeat tone has scarcely told the whole story of frantic forced evacuations amid freezing temperatures, bridges blown up to deter the Russian advance, desperate scarcities of fuel and food for animals and humans alike, and the endless stress of vulnerability to bombing and shelling.
Observed Jessica Maddox for Slate, “Alongside images of destruction and resistance, the visual story of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has included a fair bit of cats and dogs. The Albanian Times shared a story of Ukrainian soldiers taking in a puppy left in the cold. Facebook posts tout soldiers cuddling cats and show families refusing to leave their pets behind as they flee. Famed Twitter Maine coon Lorenzo the Cat shared the story of Aleksandra Polischuk, a breeder of sphinx cats who was killed when her home [in Kherson, near the bridge into the city] was destroyed [by Russian artillery.]
“And of course, Twitter couldn’t help but go aww at the photos of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his dogs.”
However, Maddox reminded, “Every pet image coming out of Ukraine right now shows a human impacted by the war in some way.”
“Hiding in a metro station”
The Day Lapu Shelter in Zaporzhie, on the Dnieper River, founded in 2009, posted to social media early in the invasion that, “Our 300 animals do not have the means to feed them,” a theme repeated during the next two weeks by practically every Ukrainian animal shelter with social media access.
The oldest dog-and-cat-sheltering organization in Ukraine, SOS Animals, founded in Kyiv in 1996 by former television news reporter Tamara Tarnawska, is among the many Kyiv animal care facilities located between the Russian tanks and the national capital buildings.
“Tamara Tarnawska is hiding in a metro station,” reported Victor Fingal on March 6, 2022 for the French newspaper Le Matin.
“Tarnawska was among the leaders of the opposition to [the former] pro-Russian Ukranian president Viktor Yanukovych (2010-2014), and was the target of several attacks,” Fingal recounted. “She did not forgive him for the organized massacre of stray dogs under his reign, some with hammer blows, and alerted the entire planet to it.”
“I don’t eat much”
Said Tarnawska, “I am alone. Most of my friends have left town. I especially tremble for the survival of the 1,000 dogs and 300 cats of the SOS Animals shelter that I created. I can no longer go there: it is located ten kilometers from Kyiv, and the city is surrounded by Russian forces.”
The SOS Animals shelter manager and two helpers “receive food for the animals from generous passing donors,” Tarnawska told Fingal. “But no one knows how long this random supply will last.
“I have no more money,” Tarnawska said. “Banks are closed and ATMs no longer work. Eating properly becomes difficult. Unable to buy anything, I don’t eat much anymore. A few crackers, water, sometimes tea, that’s about it. But those who have more give what they can. Solidarity in Ukraine exists!”
SOS Chats founder Tomi Tomek, in Noiraigues, Switzerland, the Fondation Brigitte Bardot in France, and the St-Franziskus refuge in Hamburg, Germany, pledged to Fingal that they would “charter a truck to transport food and medicine for the SOS Animals shelter when the situation allows,” but how long that might be is anyone’s guess.
Happy Paw shelter bombed
A dozen miles west of Kyiv, housing about 1,000 dogs, managed since 2009 by Italian photographer Andrea Cisternino and his wife, Vlada Shalutko, the Happy Paw shelter in Makariv has been hit by artillery shells or bombs at least twice, according to the OIPA International [International Animal Protection Organization].
Headquartered in Italy, OIPA International claims 222 affiliates in 61 nations.
The first time Happy Paws came under fire, posted international relations manager Valentina Bagnato to Facebook on behalf of the shelter, “All the animals were fortunately saved, even if some dogs and cats, promptly released from their boxes by volunteers so as not to die of asphyxiation or be burned, fled in terror.”
The next day the volunteers made repairs, received a supply of food relayed from Lviv, and began to arrange for the evacuation of some of the animals.
In mid-afternoon, however, Happy Paws was “hit by an explosive device that killed puppies and young dogs,” Bagnato said. “At the moment we don’t know how many victims there are. The volunteers managed to go to the shelter this morning to bring food to the animals.”
Another OIPA International affiliate, KSPA Lucky Strand of Lviv, reported on February 24, 2022, the day of the Russian invasion, that while it had been “able to transfer pet food from Lviv to Kyiv with a touristic bus, the situation worsened so fast that [animal shelters] didn’t have the time to stock up on food for their animals,” and every shelter in Ukraine was likely to need food soon.
HSUS/HSI & LCA helping UAnimals
The Humane Society International subsidiary of the Humane Society of the U.S. and Last Chance for Animals are both raising funds for the Ukranian animal charity UAnimals, “which is helping shelters, veterinary clinics, rescues and zoos within Ukraine,” a Humane Society International statement summarized, adding that, “In Germany, we are teaming up with Berliner Tiertafel to help Ukrainian refugees with their animals, providing food for their family and pets, pet beds and vouchers for veterinary services.”
UAnimals “is working to help over 50 shelters in Ukraine with supplies and animal transfers,” according to OIPA, and so far has “sent assistance to at least 14 shelters across the country, including Give A Paw, Chance for Life, Pif and Sirius.”
Sirius, another shelter serving animals in Kyiv and nearby suburbs for about 20 years, posted to Instagram “We are not going to run! We must believe in our country and our defenders!”
Pif, housing 800 dogs in Donetsk, capital of one of the “breakaway republics” that left Ukraine in 2014 and have been under Russian control ever since, appears to be operating more-or-less normally, despite food scarcity.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare also appears to be helping Pif, which on Facebook reported receiving aid from St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Two shelters stranded in Kherson
Two animal shelters are in Kherson, nominally captured by the Russian invasion on March 2, 2022, but reportedly still putting up resistance, including through mass civil disobedience.
The Oleshka shelter reportedly had 507 dogs and 94 cats at the time of the invasion, with two volunteers on site; the other, Shans Herson had 193 dogs with just one volunteer.
Posted a Shans Herson representative to Facebook, “Darlings, to be honest, it’s dramatic here. Scary. We just don’t know what’s next. The Russians keep shooting, killing people, destroying buildings, robbing shops. We are looking for any ways to find food for our two shelters with 794 animals.
“We were blocked in Oleski,” a Kherson suburb, “without any possibility to leave, so no one can come in to help us.
“The owners of a small pet store agreed to open a store briefly to give us pet food on loan and only because we urgently needed it.”
No way as yet to send funds directly
Other animal protection organizations in Ukraine seeking help include Shelter Friend in the historically Jewish city of Dneproperovsk, on the Dneiper river; the Gostomel Animal Rescue & Farm Sanctuary, just north of Bucha, where Anastasiia Yalanskaya was killed; Shelter Ugolyok, reputedly the biggest facility in Ukraine for rescued farm animals; and Vet Crew, run by veterinarians Leonid and Valentina Stoyanov.
The Facebook page Ukraine Animal Rescue Information offers further details about many of the above, including what contact information is available.
Unfortunately, there is as yet no way to send funds to Ukraine that will be available to Ukranian animal charities for immediate use.
Emailed Naturewatch Foundation campaign manager Mark Randall, whose British-based organization has helped animal shelters in Ukraine for perhaps longer than any other outside charity, “Our main angles at the moment are to increase social media traffic offering accurate information and updates on animals across Ukraine, to stay in regular contact with those we work with inside the country, and to try and help with their immediate needs.
“We are also starting to consider what a rebuilding project may need, ” Randall said, and it would be excellent to form coalitions to do this.
“Of course the timing of this is totally unknown right now,” Randall acknowledged.