Despite abandoning his own house and veterinary clinic after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an unjustified war on Ukraine in late February, Ukrainian veterinarian Vladyslav Matviichuk continues to offer life-saving treatment to animals in Kyiv. Millions of Ukrainians have been forced to abandon their homes, either to neighboring countries or to take refuge in safe locales such as underground metro stations, as a result of the continuous onslaught.
The attack has left many people and animals hurt and terrified, and the continuous violence is preventing aid from reaching those in need. Matviichuk has set up a temporary animal hospital in his parents’ Kyiv kitchen, where he and his wife Iryna—who left their house with their two rescued cats—provide free medical care to animals.
“Many animals suffer from explosions, missiles, and tanks. Many animals became homeless. Veterinary clinics are destroyed or closed. It is a very big problem to buy food and medicine for animals today… I try to help everyone. I treat and operate at home, take calls, consult online, by phone, by video, if it is not possible to help animals offline. Unfortunately, my resources are currently running out.” Matviichuk stated. Due to a lack of supplies, the pair has been using cut-up bed linens as animal postoperative bandages.
In Defense of Animals (IDA), an animal-rights organization, gave Matviichuk $5,000 to keep the life-saving procedure going in the near term. In a statement, IDA Communications Director Fleur Dawes said, “Brave Ukrainian people who are suffering tremendously right now are showing the world how important animals are to them, and that they are also a huge and important part of this humanitarian crisis… We’re grateful to our supporters whose generosity is enabling us to offer aid at such an important time and hope Dr. Matviichuk’s story inspires more people to continue to give.”
The brave veterinarian aspires to build a network of professionals who will join him in his mission to aid animals in need. IDA has started a fundraising campaign for Matviichuk, and those who wish to contribute can do so here.
Ukraine’s Animal Shelters Under Threat
Many sections of Ukraine are having serious problems caring for war-affected animals. More than 5,000 animals were trapped in Kyiv Oblast, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, and other combat zones as of March 10. Thousands of volunteer-run shelters have been cut off from supplies since the onslaught began. Many volunteers have put their lives on the line (and lost their lives) to carry food to shelters and rescue animals.
UAnimals, a Ukrainian animal-rights group, is on the ground rescuing animals and providing assistance to volunteers. “The situation with animals and shelters is just awful… We know about the shelling of at least four shelters in Ukraine, which were intentionally or accidentally hit by a bombshell. Many animals died. In Mykolaiv as a result of the shelling by Russian occupiers, 100 cats in the shelter were lost. Two employees of the Feldman Ecopark (a zoo in Kharkiv) were shot by the Russians when they came just to feed the animals,” stated Oleksandr Todorchuk, founder of UAnimals.
According to shelter organizer Iryna Lozova, more than 3,000 animals and people are stuck in Sirius, Ukraine’s largest refuge, near Kyiv. “Since February 24, ‘Sirius’ has been under blockade. There is no access to the shelter: all the routes are blocked by the Russian occupiers… They do not allow the transportation of food or medicine for people and animals of the Dymer community. People and animals are on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. There is no electricity in the community and animal shelter, no water, no cellular connection, and no Internet, there is constant shelling,” she said in a social media post. Lozova posts updates on social media on a regular basis, and you can learn more about how you can assist Sirius here.
Hostomel (one of Ukraine’s oldest shelters, with over 700 animals and humans stranded since the start of the war); Best Friends in Kyiv Oblast’s Makarivs’kyi neighborhood (where shelling caused a fire that killed over a hundred of the shelter’s animals); and many more are facing similar challenges.
In addition to financial assistance, these groups are urging NGOs and governments to exert pressure on Russian forces to build “green corridors,” or safe transit routes in and out of Ukraine, to aid people and animals stranded without supplies.
Ukraine Receiving Some Assistance
Currently, the Romanian Red Cross is assisting in the crisis in collaboration with Humane Society International (HSI), which has incorporated life-saving help for animals to its humanitarian relief transport for the first time. HSI has already given the Romanian Red Cross its first metric ton of pet food, which it is distributing throughout Ukraine. HSI is also working with numerous animal welfare groups in surrounding countries to arrange veterinary treatment for refugees fleeing Ukraine with companion animals in tow, thanks to a contribution from Mars, Incorporated. You may contribute to this effort by clicking here.
“As this conflict continues, people and animals in Ukraine are suffering alongside each other, particularly in those animal shelters and homes where leaving animals behind has simply been an impossible decision to make… The tragedy of war doesn’t differentiate between two legs or four, and together with the Red Cross we will get aid to those people in Ukraine desperately asking for help to keep their animal friends alive in this crisis,” stated Andreea Roseti, HSI Europe’s Romania director.
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