Man refuses to leave his 400 rescue animals amidst chaos in Ukraine
With unrest in the country, Andrea refused to leave all of the animals he rescued.
Cherie Gozon

We’ve heard of stories on how families were affected by conflict.

Unsplash - Yves Alarie
Unsplash - Yves Alarie

The current tension between Russia and Ukraine has left families no choice but to flee, even if it means leaving their men behind.

Animals were greatly affected, too.

Unsplash - Cody West
Unsplash - Cody West

Some families have the privilege to take their pets with them and bring them to safety. However, quite a few had no choice but to leave their pets behind. It’s heartbreaking indeed.

But can you imagine what it’s like for animal shelters in Ukraine?

This Italian man didn’t want to leave all the animals he rescued on this farm. He decided to stay and leave behind despite being in the middle of a warzone.

For Andrea Cisternino, it was a no-brainer decision. He knew he would stay.

Andrea is an Italian fashion photographer who married a Ukrainian woman, Vlada Shalutko. They settled in, and he started rescuing animals. He rescued various animals: dogs, cats, cows, horses, geese, to name a few.

This isn’t the first time Andrea’s shelter has faced a crisis.

He shared to EuroNews that civilians once targeted his shelter. Their government sent out an order to kill stray dogs, and those who did so got rewarded with money. It reached the point that they put his shelter on fire.

But Andrea knew that there was a need for his advocacy. He started again.

This time, he had the community to back him up. All it needed was to let them understand.

“Today, we collaborate as a community. After three hard years, I won my battle,” he told EuroNews. “They started understanding, and they even apologized for the way they had been behaving. Because they hadn’t understood until then,” he added.

The attacks in Donbas in 2014 also taught Andreas a lesson.

At that time, he remembered that provisions were running low as people were also scrambling for their survival. This time, he bought enough supplies ahead of time, especially when he started feeling like Russia would attack soon.

Andrea decided to leave behind because he had no choice.

He didn’t want to leave all 400 animals and let them die in the middle of the explosion. It was far too dangerous, and Andrea would like to be there for his rescued animals to take good care of them.

Other people called him out and asked why he didn’t just flee with the animals.

In a Facebook post, Andrea said that people had no idea how big the task would be. There are 400 animals, and he didn’t know where to take them. All refugee camps along the borders of Ukraine were packed with people. Where then would the animals stay?

Some people suggested taking them to Italy – ideal, but not realistic.

Transporting the animals in the middle of the bombings can cause more harm. And if he indeed would take them to Italy, he also had no idea where to keep them there.

If anything, Andrea deserved recognition and respect for his decision.

He could’ve chosen to flee and sought refuge somewhere else, but he decided to stay in his shelter to take care of his rescued animals. He might not be fighting for war, but that effort alone was already heroic.

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