Glory to Ukraine! (and the Volunteers saving animals)
“There are no architects, managers, actors, singers, video directors in Ukraine now. Now all are military and volunteers.”
Kateryna Virovtseva (Katya) is thirty- two. She was, is, and will be again an architect.
For now, she is an animal rescuer.
Terrible explosions were heard in Kyiv on February 24th, at 5:00am. Everyone thought that the Russians were just shelling the city as a warning, no one thought that they would invade. Yet on that night, her life — and her husband’s Dmytro life — changed forever. They thought it was only an isolated shelling from the Russians, and everything would end, and life would go back to normal.
As I write this, it is now day 47 of the war.
She told me that it was difficult to describe what they felt during the siege of Kyiv. They hardly slept, and there was constant fear. It was hard to be on the street when you saw the open sky and didn’t know if a Russian missile was flying toward you. Any loud sound caused terrible fear. The Russians stole their quiet, habitual lives, and many lost their homes.
Katya wants us to understand how Ukrainians act whenever there is trouble to preface what happened next. She told me that everyone unites and starts helping each other. It doesn’t matter if people know each other or not. They are now like one family. A family of 40 million people, led by a courageous leader. She also said they are “insanely” grateful for the Army.
“It cannot be described in words,” she said, “but we are fighting for our land, for what we have been building for years. This cannot simply be taken away!”
My colleague, Bill Daniels, an American ex-pat living in France, has delivered drones and night vision goggles to Ukraine for the Army and the civilian volunteers. He told me the story that as kids, when you’d kick over an anthill, the ants immediately began rebuilding their home. They didn’t complain. They just went to work. The Ukrainians, Bill said, are precisely like that. They immediately began to fight, rescue, and rebuild. He was amazed by their spirit under terrible conditions.
That is the spirit that Katya and Dmytro personify. They have always cared for animals. They usually had dog and cat food in the trunk of their car for strays.
During the initial siege of Kyiv, they bought food and supplies with their own money and donated them to the people running the shelters. Katya then posted on Instagram to raise more money to buy supplies for an increasingly growing population of homeless animals.
After the liberation of Kyiv, volunteers went back into the city to rescue abandoned pets, including dogs, from shelters that had been in Russian territory for over a month. This was particularly dangerous work because the Russians had left unexploded ordinance and mines in their wake as they retreated. The volunteers could not save all the dogs. Many had died from starvation. But now, in the city, there are over 3000 volunteers helping to care for the surviving animals, including walking and feeding them.
Katya and Dmytro also continue to ride around the city and feed the homeless animals because there are still not many people in Kyiv and all the animals are very hungry.
Of course, besides courage and tenacity, tragedy can also get lost in all the numbers. (Joseph Stalin, another Russian tyrant, alleged said that the death of one is a tragedy, the death of millions merely a statistic)
Katya told me the story of one woman, Tatyana, who was killed in Russian captivity. Her dog, Rini, had been found waiting for her on her doorstep — and she wouldn’t leave. Rini only accepted food that volunteers brought to her. She wouldn’t leave the door. Volunteers are now searching for a family to take Rini.
Finally, I asked Katya what she wanted. All she said was victory for Ukraine, nothing less. She wanted us, Americans, to not forget them as the war drags on. She wanted us to remember this is a war between tyranny and evil versus a democracy. She knows America well enough to know that we have a short attention span sometimes, and we go from a news cycle to a news cycle. What Will Smith did competes with the Ukrainian tragedy for our attention. She asks us not to forget that this war is ultimately our war. And it is another time we say, “Never forget!”