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Ukrainian animal shelter owner says he'd rather die than abandon his pets

Ukrainian animal shelter owner Andrea Cisternino
(Image credit: Facebook / @andrea.cisternino.37)

In the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the catastrophes that have followed, up to 1 million people have already evacuated the country. One person who won’t be joining them is Andrea Cisternino, an Italian national who owns an animal shelter in the capital city of Kyiv. 

Home to over 400 animals, including cats, dogs, and sheep, there is currently no way to safely evacuate them. Knowing this, Andrea has vowed to stay behind with them.

“I will die here for my animals”, said Andrea over on his Facebook page (opens in new tab). “I have to think about saving a refuge and its 400 guests who deserve to be protected at any cost.”

Having moved to Ukraine about 13 years ago, Andrea started his rescue work at a time when his work was frowned upon. 

The government would offer a monetary reward to kill stray dogs and people did not necessarily understand the nature of his work. Now, however, people have become much more accepting of his rescue shelter. 

While Cisternino was as shocked as anyone by the invasion of his country, he has been stocking supplies ever since the conflict in Donbas in 2014.  

Both he and his wife are choosing to stay in Kyiv to care for their animals despite hearing gunshots from 5am to 8pm everyday since the invasion began. 

When not caring for his animals, Andrea has been keeping his followers updated, writing the following message on social media:

“This morning the sky around the Refuge was red, continuous artillery firing even through the night, can’t sleep. I saw 15 minutes ago an artillery shot falling far from the Refuge, but I could smell the gunpowder well. I heard military columns in the distance they moved, planes flew by.”

Despite all this, Andrea is standing firm. We applaud the work that he is doing to help these animals stay safe, and hope for a positive outcome for him and the rest of the population of Ukraine.  

Steve writes and proofreads buying guides, news stories and advice for Pets Radar, drawing on his lifelong experience as a pet owner. Currently sharing his house with two cats and a dog, he draws on the many highs and occasional lows of pet ownership he has borne witness to in his writing. He has worked in publishing for 15 years as an editor, sub editor and writer on a range of titles, such as SciFiNow, How It Works, All About History, Real Crime and Horrorville. You can follow him on Twitter @stevewright22