77-year-old shelter owner in Hostoml: “I told Russians that they can sleep in kennels”

In Hostomel, near Kijew, a shelter run by 77-year-old Asia Serpinska looks after more than 600 dogs and cats. The woman, who risked her life, did not leave such animals during the bloody Russian occupation. “I told the Russians that if they wanted to stay here, they could sleep in dog houses,” Serpinska told the PAP.

When a fragile Russian bomb began to fall on Ukrainian cities, an elderly woman from Kiev quickly got dressed and boarded the first bus she had taken to Hostomla, more than 20 kilometers away. “I had to come here to see my dogs and cats,” Serpinska says.

The woman has been running an animal shelter in Hostoml for more than 20 years. More than 500 stray dogs and 100 cats currently live in the building, which is several tens of meters long. PAP Serpinska said there were at least 700 dogs before the war, but some of the animals escaped and some were killed by the Russians.

“Russian cars stopped in front of our fence. Several soldiers entered the property. And the dogs began to bark like dogs. Then they hit them with automatic machines. Do you understand I shouted + don’t hit! + But it was too late, “she said in a trembling voice.

As he said, he was afraid not for himself, but for the animals. “I asked one of them why he fired. And he said that the dogs are barking at him, this is a war, he has not killed anyone yet. It killed the dogs. He was very brave, “she recalled.

He added that the Russians wanted to spend the night in a shelter. “I told them they could sleep in dog houses if they wanted to,” Serpinska said.

The hostel in Hostoml, like most of the buildings in the city, did not survive the Russian occupation. The city was the scene of heavy fighting and was under Russian control for more than 30 days. The bodies of civilians killed in the streets, mass graves and hundreds of destroyed buildings were found after Russian troops withdrew in Hostomel, neighboring Bucca and Irpyen. Bullets and shell fragments can still be found in the yard of the shelter.

According to PAP, Masha Serpinskaya, who helped run the center, Masha, the roof of the shelter, was damaged by Russian fire. The repairs were estimated to cost several tens of thousands of dollars. She adds that she needs a lot of money, but her hands are also important to work.

“We currently have five employees. But this is not enough. It is not easy to find people who want to do this. This is a difficult task. We start at 7 in the morning and work at intervals until the evening. In addition, it works with animals, animals that are difficult and often abused. “

When asked if there was still a need for animal feed, he said aid agencies and volunteers had provided enough for him, but that the center had stockpiled supplies if the war returned to Hostomla.

The mountain house run by Serpinska is simply equipped, but is one of the best maintained in the region. The area where the center is located is divided into sectors. Some dogs live directly in the open air, while others live in a building several tens of meters long. There, cats find shelter in heated rooms with comfortable pens and access to the yard.

New animals continue to come to the shelter. These are dogs and cats, especially those lost during wars. Many of them survived the stress of the shootings, while others were found locked in their homes and apartments. The center is supported by volunteers, individuals and organizations. However, the needs of shelters are very high. Therefore, an online fundraiser was organized to support the center’s activities, at least in part.

During the long month that Hostomel was occupied by the Russian army, Serpinska and three workers looked after the animals. The big problem at that time was the lack of electricity. water pumps. In turn, water was needed to feed the animals. Fortunately, we were able to get an electric generator. Now there are three people in the shelter.

One day, the woman said, the Russians locked her and her colleagues in one of the rooms of the shelter and forbade them to go out. “They said let’s not go out, because the end will be bad.” According to him, the Russians claimed that the door was mined.

Another time, frantic Russian soldiers came to the shelter demanding food. “They heard the sound of chickens and asked for some soup. Did I give them? I did, they had a rifle, I didn’t have one. For them, killing a dog is like killing a fly and a man, ”she said.

Despite her advanced age, Serpinska is not yet ready to retire. With secret pride, he shows numerous thank-you diplomas that decorate the wall for his many years of work in the shelter. Among them is the “Miracle Worker” medal presented to women by the first President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk.

It also ensures that women do not worry about the future. He knows that shelter and animals will pass into safe hands. “My grandson Masha will look after him,” he adds with a smile.

Hostomla with Mateusz Mikowski (PAP)

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