Four-legged victims of the war. Residents of the bombed Chernigov rescue homeless animals

Homeless animals in the ruins of Ukrainian cities are a living symbol of the misery of their defenseless owners. The Russian army has destroyed neighborhoods and, until recently, pets have been on the verge of survival. Unlike a cat, for example, a person understands what he will run away from. If the animals left by their owners survive, they stay close to their homes. In one of the Chernigov districts, which was severely damaged by the bombing, Alexei Baranovsky, a correspondent for the Russian-language Vot Tak website, came across dozens of cats living under the rubble of their homes.

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On Taras Shevchenko Street in Chernigov, cats of different colors start rubbing their feet and muttering loudly as soon as a person stands next to them. Especially on this occasion, protected cat food packages have become an indispensable attribute of a military journalist, such as bulletproof vests and helmets. I immediately realized that these were pets that found themselves on the street. My doubts are confirmed Alexeya resident of a neighboring street who came with a can of canned food.

Oleksiy, a resident of Chernigov, who takes care of cats on Shevchenko Street. Photo by Alexei Baranovsky for Vot Tak

The boy comes here every day to feed and caress homeless animals. He says that today is his front line:

– Everyone does their best. My brother is now at war, he is defending our country, and I am helping the victims of the war. Animals are also victims.

Oleksi is seventeen years old. The boy is in college and is waiting for his adulthood to go to military service, and then go to the front as a volunteer. He will be eighteen in June. Meanwhile, he devotes all his free time to caring for the victims of the war. You should scratch the back of your ear and hold each of them, or dozens of homeless quadrupeds.

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Currently, the Krok w Stronę Animals veterinary and sterilization center in Chernigov has 200 dogs and 60 cats.

“In the beginning, the center was only for dogs, but we can’t refuse to protect cats, which would be unfair, at least,” he says. Tetiana Didenkodirector of the center.

For the first time, Ms. Tetiana did not leave the workplace to stay with her four-legged pets.

– The roofs of the farms were torn, fires started, the ruins destroyed the fences – Mrs. Tetiana remembers her days under such terrible fire.

The animal center on the outskirts of Chernigov was on the firing line between Ukrainian and Russian positions. During this time, 30 dogs were killed: some came under fire, others fled, and did not return after the garages were destroyed. At present, the rooms and facilities are being renovated through the efforts of the center’s staff and volunteers.

– You need 80 kilos of feed a day. We get a ton – is it more or less? For an apartment with one or more animals, that’s a lot, and for us, 12 days should be enough, says Ms. Tetiana. – Therefore, we need help and we are grateful to everyone: volunteers, donors, foreign funds and the city of Chernigov. We hope that their funding and support will continue, he says.

Tetiana Didenko, director of the Step to Animals veterinary and sterilization center, did not leave the animals under fire. Photo by Alexei Baranovsky for Vot Tak

Today, “Step towards Animals” is an aid center for animals from all over the Chernigov region. Food is brought here for animal shelters and centers in the region.

– For example, five tons of feed comes from animals donated by UA-animals. For us, one ton and four tones that we have to give to other shelters in need, and this is a difficult task – coordination, logistics, packaging, warehousing, and so on. Center.

When asked if he felt like a hero on the front, he replied:

– No, to love one’s country, to love one’s work is not heroism, to bear the responsibility you have taken is not heroism. I have taken responsibility for the lives of this center and the animals that live here, and I can’t give it up, ”she said, adding that not only she but other workers remained at work during the worst days of the war. therefore, he is very grateful.


Legally, the “Animal Step” is a municipal institution, ie a municipal institution. Funding from the budget is small – about 3 million UAH (about 440,000 PLN) per year, and animal protection workers have to pay VAT. According to Ms. Tetiana, the work of the Center is an important social program for Chernigov, because it is both the humanization of society and the face of the city: a large number of stray animals are harmful to both humans and pets. Ms. Tetiana has been involved in animal protection for 12 years, and she has been actively involved in modernizing animal regulations and later (since 2018) in the establishment of the body she manages.

The center does not accept pets from individuals. Only wounded animals and dangerous breeds of dogs find shelter here – Central Asian Shepherds, German Shepherds, etc.

– Such large dogs cannot live on the streets, they will just be killed. Such cases have already occurred in the villages of the region, says the head of the center. “Even after sterilization, they should not be released and there is no place to release them,” he added.

During our conversation, a bus with volunteers arrived at the center – they brought dozens of packages of pet food. Ms. Tetiana is distracted by occasional phone calls and administrative issues. When the director of the center can’t speak, I go and look at the kingdom of cats. They live here in a separate place, separate from the dogs, in an office building with a yard for training.

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The fate of cats is not entirely pink: some do not have tails, some are lame, and some have wounds on their bodies. The volunteer who looks after the cats explains that there are cats that will die on the street and therefore cannot be allowed into the settlements.

– These are disabled animals, some of them have heart failure, chronic diseases, and there are one-eyed animals that suffer from the hands of animal owners or are hit by cars. It is difficult to find a home for such animals, but some are lucky, – says the volunteer.

At the Krok w Stronę Animals veterinary center in Chernigov, two and a half hundred animals need more than 80 kg of food per day. Volunteers and philanthropists help find them. Photo by Alexei Baranovsky for Vot Tak

As in many other Ukrainian cities, Chernigov has a TNR (trap-neuter-release) system – a program of sterilization or castration of stray animals (literally catch-castrate-release). This is a modern global practice of humanistic regulation (reduction) of the number of homeless animals.

Krok w Stronę Animals is an organization that implements the principles of TNR in Chernigov.

– The capture and suppression of stray animals has been banned in the city since 2009, but only 300-400 animals have been sterilized during the year as a result of the efforts of volunteers and animal defenders. Since the establishment of our center in 2018, we have sterilized about two thousand animals a year. Part of the program is funded by the budget and part by charities, Ms Tetiana explains.

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However, because of the war, all efforts to protect the animals were in vain.

– The hostility took us back 8-10 years, – says the director of the center. – Not even hundreds, but thousands of pets were on the streets due to the destruction of residential buildings. Some irresponsible owners did not want to take their four-legged friends with them during the evacuation, while others did not have time to do so, he added.

Tetiana works as a volunteer with stray cats at the Krok w Stronę Animals veterinary center in Chernigov. Photo by Alexei Baranovsky for Vot Tak

Currently, there are people in the center who want to adopt a dog. However, the procedure is not as easy as it seems at first glance. You must draw up an appropriate contract that provides all the personal information of the “adoptive parent” and send photos from the new pet’s home.

– Such conditions discourage careless and irresponsible dog and cat owners, but it is a necessary measure – explains Ms. Tetiana. “Responsible treatment of animals starts from the first step,” he explains.

Animals are also treated responsibly on Shevchenko Street, where ten cats live in the ruins of the site. In addition to Oleksiy, who came here from the next street, I meet two other women – Halyna and Anna. One brought meat scraps to the cats, and the other brought the cat.

“I don’t eat sausages myself, I buy them for cats,” Anna says with a laugh.

Each of the caretakers on Shevchenko Street has a cat in the house, and some even have several. But they can’t leave their homeless hairs in need, so they come to them every day.

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