On Saturday 27 March, at midnight, three members of PETA Germany and four volunteers were at the table, in their residence, about forty kilometers from the border post of Médyka, in Poland. They gather around their plates to find a new way to lead the injured Ukrainian animals west to Europe.
“Passing on the Ukrainian side is not difficult, it is only long, and can take between one and six hours. On the other hand, Polish customs officers do not appreciate seeing dozens of cages. They believe that the animals were returned to Germany for resale on the black market. And they are afraid They are not vaccinated against rabies.explains Max, who has made about twenty round trips since the group settled in Poland.
Monique, center, prepares a plan so everyone on the team can understand their role and where they want to go. | Jean-Baptiste Bornier / DR Collective
A few hours ago, they tried to get to Lviv, sixty kilometers from the border. Monique, Timothy and Maxim had to turn a few dozen minutes from the city. “Our contacts immediately warned us that Lviv was being bombed by the Russians.”Timothy sighs. Indeed, Vladimir Putin targeted a fuel depot east of the city, injuring five. A new attempt will take place the next day, and the team will have to care for approximately thirty dogs and fifteen cats. Meanwhile, everyone finishes their plate prepared by Yan, one of the volunteers in charge of supervision, before going to bed. The next day, a great day awaits them.
through Eastern Europe
On Sunday, like every day, the alarm is 7:30 in the morning, everyone eats breakfast and prepares for the day: “We know when to leave, but we know when to ever come back.”Monica insists. In his right hand, the plan made the night before for each team indicates their task. The goal, today, is to cross the border point of Medica, and to recover the animals fifteen kilometers in a wasteland, “To avoid any trouble with the army”Monica adds. Two members of the Ukrainian Kharkiv Animal Rescue Association bring animals to PETA members.
The association benefits from a storage place for food and cages in Przemysl. Timothée loads crates for dogs. | Jean-Baptiste Bornier / DR Collective
Crossing the border takes about an hour. Once at the meeting point, the members of the Ukrainian Society, Yarina and Oscar, are already there. Impossible to miss, dogs bark at death: Many of them were in bomb shelters in Kyiv and Kharkiv. Some were burned, others were shocked by the violence of the fighting.Yarina sighs.
The smell also takes in the throat. The duo took several hours to get here with dogs and cats, the latter of which were in their feces for much of the way. “We have no choice, we can’t do otherwise. It’s hard to see, but you have to tell yourself that after that they will be safe and taken care of.”indicates. “They can drive for up to 48 hours in a few days. It hurts for them, but not as much as the bombardment. It is such a small price I am willing to pay for their comfort.”Yarina explains.
A dog burned after a bombing in Kyiv. | Jean Baptiste Bornier
It takes just over an hour and a half to move each animal to another clean cage and then put them all into the cars. It is 2 pm when the convoy of three cars drives along the Ukrainian border towards a border point in Romania. “We have an influential contact in Romania who called the station to let us pass, Yarina excites. Otherwise, with so many animals, we wouldn’t have been able to.”
The roads are in poor condition. In some places, it takes almost forty-five minutes to travel ten kilometers. “We can’t drive fast with all the animals in the back.”, Comments Yarina. So the small group passes through Romania, Hungary and finally Slovakia before returning to Poland. It took nearly fifteen hours by land to return to Medica, while it would have taken only two hours to cross the border point between Ukraine and Poland. Everyone took turns driving only a few breaks, and time to eat and rest for about ten minutes. But once you get there, fatigue and stress give way to joy. Everyone is glad they got the job done.
Three cars are needed to transport the animals. All of them were placed in a clean cage to provide minimal comfort. | Jean-Baptiste Bornier / DR Collective
It was nine in the morning when three members of the Lithuanian animal welfare association LionHeart arrived and took them to their shelter. “Once we get there, we treat them, take care of them and find them a new family”Explains Ingret, president of the association. Nine more hours on the road are still waiting for these animals, who came from the heart of Ukraine, but they will travel in larger and, above all, clean boxes. The rest of the day, everyone can do whatever they want: usually take a shower and nap before the evening meeting to plan operations for the following days. “We have to do our best before Saturday because we will all be back in Germany on Sunday. In one month, we have rescued nearly 1,000 dogs and cats.Monica smiles.
On Tuesday, March 29, the mission promised to be relatively simple. He traveled back and forth between Medica and Lviv to catch seven cats. The team arrived around 3 pm in a southern district of the city. Cats in a cellar. Justina, a young Ukrainian, decided to help by welcoming them. Barely a few minutes after the Beta members arrived, the sirens went off to warn of the bombing. ‘They were just missing’Youstina sighs as she tries to retrieve a hidden cat. Finally, the seven felines are put into the cars within a few minutes and the caravan departs. “We will try to create a new border point, north of Prismísl and Medica”And Yan explains.
It takes an hour and a half to get there. Once you get there, the pressure is there, but the first car passes. The second, which contains only three cats, is veiled. “The problem is that the passports are in the names of the Ukrainian holders and because we are Germans are not passed on.” Decisions are random on the border. One car can pass, but the second cannot. So Max and Mary must turn around to try to cross another border point. They will have to drive all night, turn around in Lviv, find a hotel. The next day, they gave the kittens to Ukrainian refugees. The latter managed to cross the border, and then once brought the cats back into Poland.
A haven of peace
When cats and dogs are not taken by another association, cats and dogs in Poland are taken care of in a clinic, and then taken to shelters. Joanna decided to create her own house a few kilometers from Przemysl: “A little haven of peace where we take care of these poor animals.” Approximately 120 dogs and 60 cats are welcomed before a new family is found. “I make sure to meet people who are interested and go home to make sure the animals have a good life”Joanna says.
Joanna, the owner of the shelter, hired twelve staff to take care of the animals and made the arrangements. | Jean-Baptiste Bornier / DR Collective
“This is the largest operation ever organized by PETA in Europe”Dan, the man behind all of the small group’s logistical and operational organization, insists. It was he who put everything in its place, found shelter, cars, cages and food stores. “But as it becomes increasingly difficult to cross the Polish border with animals, we have to leave”, he regrets. So the majority of the group’s members returned to Germany, while another operation took place in Hungary, where it is easier to organize the rescue of animals.