Brave man refuses to leave Ukraine without his stray animals: ‘I’m staying here for my animals’

Despite the current situation in Ukraine, Andrea Cisternino has no intentions of leaving his rescues behind.

Ever since the Russian invasion began, people in Ukraine have been doing everything they can to flee the land. But Andrea Cisternino, an Italian man who has been living in Ukraine for the past 13 years, has no intentions of leaving.

Cisternino, who established his award-winning animal shelter, KJ2 Italia Animal Refuge, in a location not far from Kyiv, says he doesn’t want to abandon the 400 animals that his shelter has rescued so far.

“It is an animal shelter that was initially for dogs, then also other animals, like horses,” he noted. According to Euro News, Cisternino used to be a fashion photographer in Italy before he fell in love and married a Ukrainian woman.

Both he and his partner have jumped through fiery hoops to get hundreds of animals the help they required and they do not wish to just leave all of them. 

“I don’t know, I’m staying here for my animals. It depends on what happens, but 400 animals is a huge number to transport anywhere, to bring them away, and to find a place for them. There are horses, cows, dogs, cats…a bit of everything. Also, the shelter cost a lot for me – it was a sacrifice, so it’s not easy to leave everything behind. At the moment I don’t know, I’m here,” he explained.

Opening up about how the course of his life changed, he shared, “I’ve been here since 2009. I married and, as a photographer, I started documenting what was happening during the 2012 Euros Championship, then I decided to build an animal shelter and many things changed – my life changed.”

For some time, he had been targeted by “dog hunters” who were looking to earn rewards offered by the government in exchange for killing stray dogs. Due to this, his shelter was set on fire. Despite the major setback, Cisternino started all over again. But now there’s a war, something that he never expected even in his worst nightmares. “They’re shooting, unfortunately, this is the situation,” expressed the animal rescuer who heartbreakingly discovered what gunpowder smells like recently.

“I’ve never seen a war before. This morning I was looking out of the window, 1 km away there was a mortar hit and I smelt gunpowder, I was not used to it,” he recalled. “Also here, in the close-by villages, they destroyed a bridge so that Russians won’t be able to cross. We hear the Russian planes and the helicopters going to the Antonov airport (also known as Hostomel) which they took over and which is some 30 kms away from here.” He added, “Usually they start shooting at 5.00 in the morning and go on until 8.00. Then, after a while… well, it’s a bewildering situation.”

Representative cover image source: Getty | Photo by Gary John Norman

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