Would you risk your life for your pets? This man is doing just that as he refuses to abandon his Ukraine animal shelter while war threatens his life.
Andrea Cisternino is just a simple man who runs an animal shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine. He takes care of over 400 animals: dogs, cats, goats, sheep, and pigs. However, amidst Russia’s invasion, he has found himself an unexpected hero. While many flee the war, Cisternino has chosen to remain in the country to protect his animals.
At the moment, there is no way for him to transport all the animals to safety, so instead of leaving them behind, he has chosen to stay with them even if it means risking his life. As he has spent years of his life rescuing animals in need, Cisternino doesn’t consider abandoning them an option – he’d rather die than leave his animals in harm’s way.
Cisternino’s journey unexpectedly led him to where he is today. He is an Italian photographer who moved to Ukraine about 13 years ago and married a Ukrainian woman. While there, he started a rescue to help stray animals.
While that might sound like an honorable mission to some people, not everyone around him saw it that way. In fact, at one point, the Ukrainian government was even rewarding people for killing stray dogs. Fortunately, Cisternino was able to change people’s minds and hearts through his work. Then, the invasion started.
While Cisternino and his wife were shocked at the attack, they did not hesitate when it came to taking care of their animals. Even though they’ve been hearing gunshots all day long, both Cisternino and his wife refuse to be scared away. Instead, they remain with their animals, taking care of them as best as they can. Many Ukrainians are keeping their pets right by their side during this horrific war.
While the invading army inches closer and closer, Cisternino remains steadfast and is willing to risk his life for his animals. “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,” said Cisternino.
Rescuing Animals During A War
While Cisternino hoped for the best, he was prepared for the worst. Several years ago, there was conflict in Donbas (a southeastern region in Ukraine). During this conflict, Cisternino knew he had to be prepared in case anything happened in Kyiv. As a result, he gathered provisions and kept the extra supplies all these years as a precaution. By planning ahead, Cisternino was able to save the lives of many animals during the Russian invasion.
Of course, many people are concerned for his safety during this time, including the 81,000+ followers he has on social media. While he doesn’t have time to respond to every message, he posts updates whenever possible to let his followers know of their current situation. Posts include photos of him with the animals and videos of their status, even as Russian helicopters fly over his property.
Cisternino posted the following message on one of his Facebook posts:
- “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 will remain with his loved ones throughout the war, even if it means risking his life. We hope that the war is over soon and that this hero has all he needs to support his family and animals.
Watch one of his video updates below and support his cause!
Featured Image: Facebook