While many people are fleeing Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, one hero is standing his ground. Andrea Cisternino runs an animal shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. He has over 400 animals in his care including dogs, cats, sheep, goats, and pigs. He currently has no way to transport all the animals to safety, so he has vowed to stay with them during these dark times.
Cisternino knows that staying in Kyiv puts his life at risk, but he says he’d rather die than abandon all the animals. He has spent years rescuing animals in need, so he won’t stop anytime soon.
A True Hero
Cisternino is an Italian photographer who moved to Ukraine about 13 years ago. He ended up marrying a Ukrainian woman and starting a rescue to save the stray animals in the country.
When Cisternino started his rescue, a lot of people weren’t pleased. At one point, the government was even giving people rewards for killing stray dogs. But now that people have a better understanding of the work Cisternino does for animals in need, they’ve been more accepting of his rescue.
Cisternino was just as shocked as everyone when the Russians invaded Ukraine. Yet, he didn’t hesitate when deciding what to do. Both he and his wife chose to stay in Kyiv despite the risks. Every day since the invasion began, Cisternino can hear gunshots from 5 am to 8 pm, but he refuses to let that scare him away from the rescue. Many other Ukrainians are also keeping their pets by their sides during these difficult times.
“I will die here for my animals. I have to think about saving a refuge and its 400 guests who deserve to be protected at any cost,” Cisternino said.
Saving Animals Amid a War
Cisternino never expected something so horrific to happen out of the blue, but luckily, he was prepared. After the conflict in Donbas several years ago, he gathered provisions as a precaution. He kept his extra supplies all this time just in case something went wrong. Planning ahead might have saved the animals’ lives.
Many people have reached out to Cisternino via social media to make sure he’s okay. He explained that he doesn’t have time to respond to every message, but he posts updates as much as he can to let his 70,600 followers know he’s alive. He has shared photos of himself with the animals, along with a video of Russian helicopters flying over his property.
“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,” Cisternino wrote on Facebook.
Cisternino will stay by his animals’ sides no matter what. Hopefully, these horrors will end soon, but in the meantime, he will keep being a hero for his four-legged companions.