«Yesterday I left; I was evacuated. It was difficult both emotionally and physically. I understand that I have to write about it, but my mind keeps slowing down, trying to protect itself…
My first evacuation attempt was on March 23. However, transporting the dachshunds didn’t work out. The cart fell apart when I was walking with it, and the cages fell off: the dogs ran away, I cried and cursed. When I stopped crying, I decided to stay.
And the next morning, on March 24, I went back to business as usual; I took the dachshunds for a walk and visited my neighbour. She had a gas cylinder and a gas stove in the summer kitchen. She let me use it to cook food for my dogs. I cooked porridge with fish, then went across the street to a neighbour’s to get some non-drinking water from a standpipe with a hand pump…
There has been no electricity or gas for a long time. By some miracle I managed twice to charge my mobile phone a little… This phone was my ray of hope and connection to the outside world — once a day I made a very short call at a very specific time. And this time when I got through I heard: «Yes, take the dogs and go, evacuate, there’s a „green corridor“ today. We don’t know if there’ll be another chance!»
And I made up my mind. I have 12 dachshunds. Given the previous day’s bitter experience, I came up with several ways to transport the dogs. First the so-called «kravchuchka» [a luggage trolley] (it had space for two pet carriers); then a garden wheelbarrow with one wheel (I put a few dog beds in it and a crate I’d assembled); on this I put a crate with three more dachshunds, a box with two dachshunds and a backpack. And my third «vehicle» was a trolley for transporting plasterboard (I spent a long time Googling the name of this trolley and only found out what it was called today).
I loaded another crate with five more dachshunds on it, a small crate with a standard male, and a pet carrier with a miniature male. I threw another backpack on top. I fastened everything with as many bungee cords as possible.
There were not enough of them… I was even using — sorry for the intimate detail — women’s synthetic tights to fasten things to the garden wheelbarrow: they stretch perfectly and, as this experience has shown, hold things in place very firmly.
It was eight degrees above zero and very windy. At noon I set off. In normal, peaceful times, I could walk from home to the centre of the village in 30 minutes on average. The trip took four-and-a-half hours with all my stuff. I moved little by little. I would move one wheelbarrow 20−30 metres, leave it, go back for the trolley, move it 30 metres forward, leave it, go back to the «kravchuchka», move the «kravchuchka»… and so on… to the centre of the village.
My trolleys and wheelbarrows were not particularly suitable for such a circus, they were made for a completely different purpose. All the way — a deserted, still street… small, privately-run shops had been robbed clean and there were many abandoned dogs of various sizes. Along the way we even came across two pairs of pigs — cute, well-groomed and well-fed, all around 80−100 kg in weight…
My dachshunds showed their instincts — seeing pigs — that is, real prey :)--they all barked as excitedly and loudly as they could, announcing the hunt. As a result, the wheelbarrow wove from side to side because the dachshunds were excited, jumping around inside the cage. And I was shouting, swearing with various unprintable words… swearing at the abandoned dogs which ran after us, swearing at the abandoned pigs and at my dachshunds… The silence was terrifying, and clouds of yellow dust whirled at the side of the road.
The gates of a private house opened and a decent-looking man came out, strong and tall … he looked at me, taking in the sight of the «talking dogs»… I was so exhausted that I asked him: «What, do you want to help?» He said in surprise: «So, yesterday there was an evacuation but there isn’t one today.» I summed up: «So you’re not going to help me…» and I pushed the garden wheelbarrow forward. It was the heaviest of all, it wove in different directions, you have to balance it and it’s very difficult.
I pushed this wheelbarrow ahead, stopped, returned for the «kravchuchka» and saw that the man had hitched himself up to the trolley and was deftly pulling it along. He stopped. He came up to me, and asked, very calmly and carefully. «Haven't you got any water?» I had none. He gave me two bottles of drinking water. They saved me a lot later, I was just dying from the exertion and I was thirsty.
And so I’d almost reached the centre of the village, I left the trolley at the intersection and returned for the «kravchuchka». The wheelbarrow was farthest away, it was 80 metres from the intersection and hidden from view by a small bend in the road. And so I was pulling the «kravchuchka» along and saw that a man in a black jumpsuit with a white bandage on his sleeve was unloading the crates and boxes from the wheelbarrow: the box with the miniature dachshund and the crate with the standard dog had already been removed and were on the ground, and this man was trying to open the crate with the standard male dachshund inside.
I realised that I didn’t have time to get to him so I started shouting- yes, actually really angrily shouting, «What the hell do you think you’re doing?» By the time the man had caught on to what I was saying, I’d already reached him … He was a local man with a familiar face, it was red and he was drunk. «Oh, I wanted to set the dogs free, because they were left here to die.» How I shouted at him!!! If I’d the physical strength, I would’ve beaten him! However, I didn’t have the strength.
Instead, I had a dismantled cart which I could not put back together. And then I saw that the line of yellow minibuses, which had been parked at the gathering place for evacuees, was leaving. It was heading to exactly where I was standing, where it would turn onto the street and leave the village. I waved my arms and shouted.
The main jeep stopped. A man in a black jacket with the word «rescue worker» on it came out. Crying and choking on my tears, I asked him to help: «Over there, 80 metres from here, I’ve got another cart full of dogs.» In response, he said «I'm not going anywhere, don’t you know that people are shooting in the village?» Oh, at another time and in another situation, I’d have told this young man how well I know what shooting is! And the young man, the «rescue worker,» set out his conditions for taking me: «Are you leaving? We will take you, but we won’t take the dogs!» Crying, I answered that these were purebred dogs, pedigree dogs, that they were protected by the law of Ukraine, that they represented 26 years of selective breeding… Still, he asked just one thing: «Are you leaving? No? well, sorry…» He got into the jeep and left…
And cars started driving past me. And I wasn’t just hysterical, I was wailing because everything was meaningless, because I’d come across a callous and soulless young fool… And in a last, very desperate attempt, I just threw myself under the convoy jeep. The jeep stopped. A man got out. Choking with excitement and with tears, I shouted in a broken voice that I had dogs with me and couldn’t leave them… at that moment there must have been a guardian angel nearby… the man got on his walkie-talkie and asked for one bus to come back.
The bus arrived instantly. There was only ONE woman on the bus, all other seats were empty. The back door opened and they loaded up the nearest dachshunds. Then the jeep moved forward and we saw the wheelbarrow with my dachshunds, the back door of the bus opened again, the dachshunds were loaded… I couldn’t stop crying… And the driver of the jeep, who was in civilian clothes, said in disgust: «Woman, pull yourself together.»
And so the convoy of buses set off. On the next street, at the bus stop, we picked up three elderly couples and an elderly woman… And the journey began. It wasn’t until late in the evening that we reached our destination. Many checkpoints in different countries, villages, war-torn houses… a sad sight.
I hadn’t anticipated that the fact that I’d brought so many dachshunds would make such an impression on those who met we evacuees at our destination. People marvelled, asked permission for a photo. A news correspondent appeared nearby and asked for an interview… Someone told me that this story was on the TV news today.
Svitlana, Kyiv region