Andrzej takes photos of refugee animals in Poland

– In front of my eyes, in the empty gallery of the Katowice Cultural Center, there is a picture of an old woman stroking her head with a blanket on a tired dachshund in a field bed. I remember Andrzej, a woman who shared the soup she received from the volunteers with a dog and a boy who took pictures of refugee animals, telling us that he had gathered his cat in a metal cage to fish to save it.

  • Andrew Skowron has been documenting his life for years farm animals. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, he has been taking photos of refugees and their animals
  • According to him, the project is an attempt to respect all those who take care of animal friends during the war. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cat, a dog or a small mouse
  • Cats in boxes, shopping bags or metal nets for fish. If it were not for the war, someone would probably consider these modes of transport unethical. But in this case, it is a matter of love
  • – When the refugees were asked if they could draw a “sabake” (dog) or a “gut” (cat), they answered with a smile and curiosity. Thanks to this, they were able to forget the war for a moment
  • More similar stories can be found on the Onet.pl homepage

Refugees from Ukraine with pets in Poland

Photo: Andrew Skowron / Noizz.pl

Ewelina Kołodziej: Why did you decide to focus on this aspect of the war drama – the tragedy of animals?

Andrzej Skowron: – Seeing refugees from Ukraine, their selflessness and desperation to save their animal companions – all this made me think. I pay attention to the protection of animal rights every day, so in this case, my focus was on their fate from the beginning.

I still didn’t know how much I would love these animals when I went to the train station. I think that this project is a desire to respect all those who are able to take care of their closest animal friends in wartime. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cat, a dog or a small mouse. All of them are also war refugees. Therefore, I focused only on the topic of animals and their companions, and in this regard, the great mobilization and assistance of animal-friendly organizations in Poland.

Which places did you visit?

My first pictures were taken in Silesia. There I spent a few days at the railway station in Katowice, at the reception at the Baglar City Cultural Institution, and at the freight terminal in Slavkov. For the next few hours, I was at the train station in Krakow, walking in a circle there, looking for small dogs and cats among the refugee bags, which aroused the interest of the station police. Then there was the railway station in Wroclaw, then Warsaw Central, West and East. On the way east, I was visited by a children’s fund by Judyta, where their team rescues and rehabilitates animals in the worst condition. I finished the whole trip in Przemyśl and at the Medica border crossing.

Ukrainian animals coming from Lviv to Poland by train with their owners

Ukrainian animals coming from Lviv to Poland by train with their owners

Photo: Andrew Skowron / Noizz.pl

How long did your trip last?

I met a child and a mother of two cats who escaped from the bombed Kharkov. The woman traveled for seven or eight days before arriving in Katowice. My project lasted so long. The difference was that I didn’t run and I could always come home. They had only a few suitcases, cats, and no prospect of returning.

Did you only encounter dogs and cats, or were there other animals?

I have often found that dogs, especially small ones, predominate. Some of them were hooked, and some could only see their heads sticking out from under their owners’ down jackets. It was amazing that most of them wore woolen clothes. In the station halls, they slept with their owners in their arms, and in the reception areas, they rested in beds with their families.

Refugee animals at the train station in Warsaw

Refugee animals at the train station in Warsaw

Photo: Andrew Skowron / Noizz.pl

I remember a couple from Kharkov came to the border checkpoint in Przemyśl with a dachshund, a Labrador and three cages with a few parrots inside. Without plans, without connections, they found themselves in Poland, where they had never been. When asked where they were going, they answered “we don’t know”. They only knew that they were far from the war and that they were all together, and that was the most important thing for them.

There were also cats at the stations. They were kept in a hood, in boxes, in ready-made containers, in shopping bags, or in a metal net for fish. If there were no war, one would probably consider these modes of transport unethical, but in this case it is a matter of sincere love. Cats and dogs included hamsters, small mice, guinea pigs, parrots and rabbits.

Refugee animals from Ukraine with animals at the Medica border crossing

Refugee animals from Ukraine with animals at the Medica border crossing

Photo: Andrew Skowron / Noizz.pl

What helped the people who left Ukraine with animals?

In each of my locations, animal owners who had more or less problems were looked after by volunteers from animal organizations. They were provided with fodder, new forks, professional utensils, veterinary stations for vaccinating and chipping animals, and their owners were informed about the procedures carried out in the European Union. Involvement of animal activists can be put on a par with organizations that help refugees.

Veterinarians from the German organization Tierschutzbund help animals from Ukraine at the Medyka border crossing.

Veterinarians from the German organization Tierschutzbund help animals from Ukraine at the Medyka border crossing.

Photo: Andrew Skowron / Noizz.pl

Ukrainians often looked at such great, selfless help with disbelief, and sometimes disbelief. I think some people were afraid to take their animals, so the reactions were different. I often heard questions about whether it was free, I saw emotional tears. The refugees embraced activists from the German organization Tierschutzbund, which is building a field veterinary clinic on the border in Medica. The most tired and stressed animals were given vitamins, supplements and sedatives.

Have you talked to pet owners? Or maybe a story made an exceptional impression on you and stuck in your memory?

I did not always have direct contact with them, and sometimes I secretly observed their intimate relations with animals. In the empty gallery of the Katowice Cultural Center, I see a picture of an old woman stroking her head, giving a blanket to a tired dachshund in a camp bed. I remember a woman warming a dog by the fire at the border in Medici, or a little girl trying to feed a frightened cat.

Refugees from Ukraine with pets in Poland

Refugees from Ukraine with pets in Poland

Photo: Andrew Skowron / Noizz.pl

There was also a grandmother with a granddaughter. A child in line to check the border told us how beautiful the “kitten” was in a metal cage for fishing. Two brothers from Kiev use a mouse in a small container they made from a box of lamps. An elderly couple with two dogs and nine cats in containers pushed a bus from Biedronka across the border into a shopping cart.

Ukrainian animals coming from Lviv to Poland by train with their owners

Ukrainian animals coming from Lviv to Poland by train with their owners

Photo: Andrew Skowron / Noizz.pl

I saw the Judyta Foundation for Puppies, where very sad scenes, but hopeful, came from dogs rescued from war zones. Dozens or more dogs from pseudo-kennels saved by the war. A blind spaniel hitting the walls, an eight-year-old lame German shepherd, a Ukrainian army veteran, or a young female dog with granules that paralyzed his hind legs, and another young female dog in a yellow sweater. In a taxi with Pegasus Foundation activists on the Medici border.

Dogs from Ukraine at the Judyta Puppies Foundation

Dogs from Ukraine at the Judyta Puppies Foundation

Photo: Andrew Skowron / Noizz.pl

Each of them is a different story that we will probably never know. It’s hard to draw a unique story, each of them, whether a mouse, a hamster or a cat, is a separate drama and suffering. This is a demonstration of true love, friendship and affection for your pets. This is a test that the guards of these animals undergo with flying colors.

Refugees from Ukraine with pets in Poland

Refugees from Ukraine with pets in Poland

Photo: Andrew Skowron / Noizz.pl

I wonder what pet owners who get rid of pupils in Poland due to allergies, displacement or childbirth think? What would they do in the face of war? Unfortunately, this is very easy to check.

How did people from Ukraine react when you asked if you could take a picture of their animals?

It is difficult to capture the war drama of tired people greeted by many photojournalists and television cameras on the border with Ukraine. However, when I approached the refugees directly and asked if I could draw their “dog” or gut (cat), not about the war, they answered with a smile and interest. The general conversation about animals, despite the language barrier, sometimes took several minutes. These moments allowed us to forget the war for a moment.

You changed the fate of one of the cat refugees. Tell the story of your cat.

This is a short story and my lover has dignity. It all happened in the early days of the war, when the evacuation of activists from the organization he worked for became a priority. The logistical complex operation led to the rescue of two rescued activists, nine cats and two dogs from Lviv, after several tens of hours of travel at the border, thanks to the efforts of him and his colleague. Poland. All of them were examined by the Open Cages Association and very quickly found a home, and one of them, a one-eyed male Borys, was baptized and stayed with us. I urge everyone to help animal organizations in Ukraine, such as Zoopatrul Kiev, to rescue animals from abandoned homes.

Lviv cat Borys, who found a home with Andrzej

Lviv cat Borys, who found a home with Andrzej

Photo: Andrew Skowron / Noizz.pl

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