In the midst of Russia’s bombing of Kharkiv, an Instagram-famous cat has left war-torn Ukraine and sought safety and asylum in France.
Stepan, a 13-year-old Instagram sensation with over one million followers, rose to fame owing to his funny images of himself in various angry positions.
His owner (a woman named Anna) frequently maintains his Instagram account (@loveyoustepan), but when it fell silent for over two weeks, with no posts between March 3 and 16, followers worried they had been injured or murdered in assaults on Kharkiv, where they live.
The city, Ukraine’s second biggest, is only about 25 miles from the Russian border, making it a prime target. Despite the fact that Russian soldiers have yet to seize it, it has been attacked nonstop since the end of February.
This week, Anna turned to social media to reassure her fans that Stepan and she are safe and have taken asylum in France after fleeing Ukraine.
Stepan looked terrified with his travel luggage and aboard a train in a photo accompanied by a long commentary explaining the arduous voyage from Ukraine.
“On February 24, early in the morning, we were sleeping at home. At 5 am, some explosion was heard, and I didn’t even understand what it was,” she claimed.
“After a while, after half an hour later, there were more explosions, the windows trembled. I jumped up and understood that something terrible was happening… The attack and shelling of Kharkiv (especially on the North Saltovka where we live). We realized that the war had come to our house,” she added.
The message went on to say that their neighbors’ homes were being hit by shells on a daily basis, and that while their own building stayed undamaged for a week, it was destroyed on the eighth day when a shell hit their neighbors’ balcony.
It said: “There was no fire. Thank God! In two or three dozen apartments, all the windows spilled out. Also, two shells fell in our yard in front of the house.
‘We spent two nights in the basement and without electricity for a week. We had to go to the nearby basement to charge the phone. Then we managed to leave the city. Kharkiv volunteers helped by taking us to the railway station.
‘We got on the train Kharkiv – Lviv (in 20 hours, we got to Lviv). Then we followed to the border with Poland. At the border, we stood in a line in a pedestrian crossing. There were a lot of people (4-5 thousand). After 9 hours, we crossed the border.
‘When we reached Poland, we were offered help from the World Influencers and Bloggers Association from Monaco.
‘They helped us get to France to wait for the very day when we could return home. We’re all right now. We worry very much about our relatives in Ukraine and will do the very best we can to help our country.”
The post, which earned over half a million likes, sparked a flurry of responses from worried followers.
“I am crying with joy that you are all safe. I’ve been so worried,” one comment said
Another said “So glad to hear that you’re safe now. Thank you for sharing this terrible experience with us. We’re with you!”
‘We love you Stepan and Anna are so relieved you are both safe. I will keep checking on you each day,” a third commenter added.
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