In Photos: Refugees And Their Companion Animals Flee War In Ukraine
Ukrainian refugee Anastasia sits with her dog after finally crossing the Polish Ukrainian border in Medyka. Poland, 2022. Miloš Bičanski / We Animals Media.
To view more images from this collection, visit our Companion Animals gallery.
This month, We Animals Media contributors Andrew Skowron, Miloš Bičanski and Thomas Machowicz are on the ground in Poland and Ukraine to document the stories of humans and animals seeking refuge from the Russian invasion.
The impact of war on animal lives is something that has been observed throughout history – whether birds, dogs and horses forced to face and even fight in the frontline, or companion animals held tightly in the arms of people fleeing their homeland.
A young Ukrainian refugee carries her beloved dog in her arms as she waits at the Ukrainian Polish border in Medyka, Poland. Forced to flee her home with only what she could carry, she chose her dog. Poland, 2022. Miloš Bičanski / We Animals Media
Two small dogs are held tightly by their human guardians at the Ukrainian Polish border in Medyka, Poland. At this border crossing, one of eight in Poland, the crowd is made up of mostly women, children and companion animals since men under the age of 60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine. Poland, 2022. Miloš Bičanski / We Animals Media
According to estimates from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than three million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s brutal invasion on February 24th, with almost two million of those people arriving in Poland. Amid the mass exodus, companion animals – dogs, cats, rodents and birds – also innocent victims of this war, accompany those fleeing in search of safety.
As thousands of refugees continue to cross the Ukraine/Poland border each day, volunteers from Poland and across Europe have set up stations to provide food, warmth, medical care, information and even convoys to other countries where accommodation will be provided to refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of their country.
Ukrainian war refugees rest at the Katowice train station in Poland where they have set up makeshift beds on the floor. Food and veterinary care is available for animals. Poland, 2022. Andrew Skowron / We Animals Media
A Ukrainian refugee holds her small dog tightly against her chest as she waits in line at the reception center in Medyka on the Polish Ukrainian Border. An emergency blanket is wrapped around her shoulders to help her stay warm from the bitter winter cold. Poland, 2022. Miloš Bičanski / We Animals Media
Our contributor Thomas Machowicz is currently documenting what he calls the “Animal Rescue Pipeline”, which runs from western Europe to eastern Ukraine. Donations and supplies come in through Poland to western Ukraine, then get distributed by local groups to individuals and shelters. Animals (mostly dogs and cats) rescued from conflict areas in eastern Ukraine are transported to Lviv, then Poland, then to rescue organizations in Europe.
Dogs in a crate at Dim Sirka animal shelter, wait to be transported to the Fundacja Centaurus aid camp in Medyca. Poland, 2022. Thomas Machowicz / We Animals Media
“As I conducted interviews with volunteers at the animal rescue camp on the Poland/Ukraine border a common refrain I kept hearing was “I couldn’t just stay home and do nothing.” That resonates so strongly with me. As I continue this work I feel acute sadness for everyone, but especially the families saying goodbye to loved ones of all species. I feel strength from the Ukrainian people as I’m witnessing first hand their resilience in the face of an existential threat. I feel a hope that in time we will stop these cycles of violence and live in true peace.” — Thomas Machowicz, Animal Photojournalist
Fleeing from an area of Kyiv devastated by Russian bombing, Anastasia left her mother and brother in Lviv and traveled to the border accompanied only by her dog. She will continue on to Germany where she will stay on the farm of a kind stranger who offered to take her in. Once there, she plans to put her skills as an English professor to use by offering English lessons to other displaced Ukrainians. Poland, 2022. Miloš Bičanski / We Animals Media.
A young Ukrainian refugee cradles his pet hamster as he waits at the Kraków train station in Poland. The station has been converted to a makeshift shelter for incoming refugees from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, providing food, a warm place to rest, information and free train tickets. Poland, 2022. Miloš Bičanski / We Animals Media
A frightened cat peeks up from the cot at Kraków train station in Poland, where a family of Ukrainian refugees has stopped for a much-needed rest after fleeing their home with only what they could carry. The station has been converted to a makeshift shelter for incoming refugees from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, providing food, a warm place to rest, information and free train tickets. Poland, 2022. Miloš Bičanski / We Animals Media
These photographs tell the stories of just some of the individuals displaced by the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the brave efforts of those working to find refugees and their companion animals temporary relief.
Surrounded by the devastation and turmoil of war is a demonstration of our fierce love for animals, and humanity’s profound capacity for compassion. Across borders and species, we’re all connected.
A Ukrainian refugee from Kharkov arrives at the Polish Ukrainian border in Medyka with her three young children and their two dogs. Her husband is in the army and remained behind to defend his country. Poland, 2022. Miloš Bičanski / We Animals Media
A young Ukrainian woman carries all that she holds dear as she walks through the parking lot of a former shopping mall in Przemysl which has been converted to a temporary refugee shelter. The parking lot is filled with buses and other vehicles that are available to transport Ukrainian refugees throughout the EU. Poland, 2022. Miloš Bičanski / We Animals Media