After a very long wait at the border, Daniel, Patrik and crew were finally on their way with 27 dogs and cats on board! When it comes to reuniting dogs and cats with their Ukrainian owners outside of Ukraine or finding new homes for war-related abandoned animals, (outside of Ukraine) the challenges are endless. Firstly, one person is limited to 5 animals when crossing the border. This means volunteers were necessary for Daniel and Patrik to get the total number of 47 animals across the border and that would give them enough time to drive the long trip home and to be home by Monday morning in time for their regular jobs.
But a border crossing is most often never simple, regardless of where you are! No matter what good intentions you have, there is a long list of ‘can-do’s and cannot-do’s’ that we are all expected to know, but don’t! Daniel and Patrik used the Ubla/Slovakian border post which is by no way going to be a quick and casual border crossing. I know from my own experience, having had to wait while the Slovakian border officials assessed my ‘strange and very foreign’ African passport for over an hour with various officials poking their head around the corner to have a look at me! They certainly take their job seriously which I suppose is necessary, especially in times like these. But it can be quite intimidating at times and it certainly does not happen quickly.
Daniel, Patrik and crew only managed to get 27 out of 47 dogs and cats across the border. They were delayed by 19 hours for a number of reasons, including waiting for the animals to be approved for border crossing and not enough volunteers to help with taking 5 animals each. It was a difficult decision to make, but they had to make the decision to leave the animals that were not yet through. They still had a 15 – 20 hour drive back home and needed to be back at work by Monday. Time was now of essence. This would have been very difficult news to break to some of the Ukrainians hoping to be reunited with their animals.
Many of these animals from Ukraine are as traumatized as their humans are. With the constant bombardment of missiles, of explosions, of shattering shards of window glass, with walls that shake and shudder – it is a truly terrifying world to be in. If I think of how animals behave on Guy Fawkes Day and New Years Eve with a few fireworks here and there, I cannot even begin to imagine their state of being during a war like this. Regarding the pets, many of them are traumatised, some on edge and aggressive and some becoming more and more reclusive, overwhelmed and alone – in a state of shock.
Though I know this would have been difficult for Daniel and Patrik to return with less animals than what they wanted to return with, they did return with 27 animals. I imagine that these are some of the very difficult decisions people are forced to make during war; who to take and who to leave behind.
The vehicle arrived at the designated meeting place and the doors of the van were finally opened, with light flooding in and the sound of familiar voices – the sound of their humans! Daniel describes the incredible few minutes of witnessing these animals that have been in a severely depressed state, of them hearing their owners voices for the first time and the realization that comes over them like a tidal wave of emotion, that they are not alone and not abandoned, they have been found.
And this is my favourite! I would love to have been here to witness this myself, but I can imagine these moments of pure joy to be reunited after such a terrifying experience. Something very good to happen in a time of such uncertainty, change and grief. These are the moments that keep them going!
Daniel and Patrik will be making another trip to Ukraine next month. They will be using the money donated to buy food and essentials for the Ukrainians. Please continue to support the Ukrainians, this is a long haul and they need our support. Soon, I will be sharing some stories and experiences of the Ukrainian refugees I have met and exactly how the global community and volunteers have helped them and how this support must continue for them to carry on as they have.
Please support Daniel and Patrik’s Go fund me account. Click here: Daniel and Patrik Go Fund Me website
Lianne Ashton is the author and photographer for Rosie Goes. She is a freelance photographer and writer currently based in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.