There have been some amazing stories coming out of Ukraine about people risking their lives to save that of a dog. But it’s not just the rescues of our canine friends that are incredible. Recently, the Washington Post shared a story about an animal shelter owner in Hostomel (just outside of Kyiv) who save a lion – yup, you read that right. A lion.
As the Washington Post reports, Asya Serpinska had been running an animal shelter in Hostomel for twenty years, and when the Russians invaded, she knew she had to keep things going. “The first thought that crossed my mind was that I had to run to the shelter,” she told the Washington Post. “I was consciously going to war. My people were here, my dogs were here.”
And keep things going she did. She kept most of her 700 dogs and 100 cats alive, and her husband Valentyn, drove through the fighting to bring the shelter a generator when the power went out, despite having Stage 4 cancer.
Asya faced many challenges, including the Russians themselves. Asya told the Washington Post about two soldiers “dressed like Terminators” who entered the shelter. When the dogs went to protect her, the Russian soldiers brutally shot Asya’s beloved dog Gina.
But while Asya is used to caring for dogs and cats, Asya had to expand her care when a shell landed on a nearby private zoo abandoned shortly after the war. The zoo caught fire, and Asya and her team rescued peacocks and turtles, which are still under the care of her shelter.
“Only the lion got left behind,” Asya told the Washington Post. “For five weeks, we would go there under shelling and bullets to feed that lion, because it had been locked in a cage and we didn’t have the keys.”
Asya was given yet another challenge when Russian soldiers placed a mine outside of the cage. Asya asked them to feed the lion, but they callously refused. Asya bribed them with cigarettes. They told Asya to put them on the ground and walk away, but when the soldier went down to pick them up, he activated the mine!
Fortunately, the lion was safe and Asya was able to feed him every day until Ukraine liberated the town in April. He’s so lucky to have someone as caring as Aysa!
Now Asya is on a quest to rebuild. Even though the electricity in her shelter hasn’t been fixed yet, the animals are still reportedly happy.
For Asya, the invasion isn’t just her present, but also her past. “My parents were terrorized by the Soviets, and so were their parents before them,” she said. “Our generation must resist them.”
Her desire to help the animals in her town might be part of something deeper. “We have a saying, and it’s important,” Serpinska said. “For us, to save animals is to be human.”
It’s to be human indeed! It’s a bold reminder that we should never turn our backs on our four-legged friends during times of strife. They need us.