Sisters in Ukraine Evacuate Dozens of Stray and Lost Cats

'I know I can help them. So I do.'

Evgeniya Drach with cats rescued in Ukraine
Evgeniya Drach with some of the cats she and her sister rescued in Kyiv.

Evgeniya Drach

When the war started in Ukraine, Evgeniya Drach and her sister couldn’t leave behind the dozens of cats at the adoption center where they volunteered. So they found a way to evacuate them to safety.

But they couldn’t stop there. When the first few dozen cats were away from harm, the sisters decided to return to Kyiv and save some more.

Both photographers, the sisters have documented their rescue work. Drach took time to talk to Treehugger via email about what they’re experiencing and how they’ve been helping the stray and lost pets in the area.

Why This Matters to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our cats, the better we can support and protect their well-being. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.

Treehugger: What has your life been like since the war started? Have you moved or stayed in the same place?

Evgeniya Drach: From February 24, when Russia started a full-scale war against Ukraine, to March 8, me and my sister Olga were staying in Kyiv. With our dog Pandora, we spend nights in the parking of our neighbor’s house, sleeping on concrete floors, and then days at home with our three cats: Finik, Shalfey, and Kometa. When we hear sirens in the daytime, we run back to the parking lot. One such day while running to “bombshell” parking at the sound of an air alarm, we saw how a Russian missile hit the TV tower which is one kilometer from our home. So we decided we need to evacuate the animals to a safe place.

Have your friends and family stayed safe?

Fortunately, my family and friends are all alive and don’t have injuries. Unfortunately, the war is still happening and my hometown Kyiv is still bombed as well as other Ukrainian cities. People are still dying in their peaceful homes. And I could be one of them every day. 

Evgeniya and Olga Drach with dog
Evgeniya (left) and Olga Drach.

Evgeniya Drach

When did you and your sister decide to help animals? 

I was helping animals since I remember myself as a child. As I grow I find new ways to help. Now I work with the charitable organization Hochookota (which means “want a cat”). We help homeless cats in hard situations—take them from the streets, heal them, and take care till they find a forever home. When the war started, there were about 50 cats in our adoption center.

Are they stray animals or pets left behind by their families?

Most families take their pets with them, but some animals are left on the street because their owners were killed, or run away from ruined buildings and so on. Especially in little cities around Kyiv, which were occupied by the Russian army. 

rescue cats in Kyiv, Ukraine

Evgeniya Drach

How have you been evacuating them? Where are they going?

We found a big car, which was for cargo, not animals or people, and packed all 50 cats from the adoption center, three our own cats, our dog, me and my sister. It was March 8. We drove all night to the Ukrainian border with Poland. It was -7 degrees Celsius. It was cold. There was no heating in the “cargo” part of the car.

But we arrived all alive.

After that, we needed to do four more transportations with all cats to get to our destination, Germany. There we find new families for most cats. Part of them go to local shelters and are also finding new families now.

Me and my sister decided to go back home. So we take our three cats and our dog, and came back to Kyiv. Now we are here, helping new cats, victims of war. 

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Why is this work important to you?

I see these animals and I don’t want them to suffer, and I know I can help them. So I do.