We are over a week into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the media has been full of graphic images. The world watches from screens as people of all ages, incomes, and ethnicities flee dozens of cities which have become war zones. While it has been hard to see apartment complexes, identical to the one I grew up in Kyiv, turned to rubble, there have been many moments where my faith in humanity was restored.
Many images of dogs, cats, and other pets bundled up in bunkers or fleeing abroad with their families have gone viral. Dog groups on Facebook became flooded with concerns over the “radioactive” pups of Chernobyl, the stray dogs of Kyiv, Zoo animals, and the animals in Ukraine in general. I also saw photos of dogs protesting this war worldwide. Below you’ll see some of the cutest protestors.
If you wish to donate to Ukrainian dogs and other beloved pets, a great charity is Save Pets of Ukraine created by pet food company Kormotech. For other reputable Ukrainian organizations to donate to, read this.
Dogs Against Putin, Dogs For Peace
The photos below are taken by Birute Vijeikiene outside of the Russian embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania. The dogs belong to Vakaris Neverauskas. His sister Jura Neverauskas posted them in a public group on Dogspotting Society on Facebook. She gave me permission to share them here. The black pug is Tofu and the lighter mutt is Furbis. Jura reports that people have been protesting here for the past six days.
The reason that I find protests featuring animals the most touching is that love for animals is universal. Humans have bonded with dogs and other creatures for thousands of years. Sometimes, on a particularly tough day, seeing a pug with a “Dogs <3 Ukraine” sign can make one feel human again.
Beagles for Peace 2014
Since I haven’t lived in Ukraine since 1996, I have been far from this war that started over eight years ago. I have visited my parents in Kyiv many times but our conversation steered clear of the war. In 2014, however, I came to Ukraine as a reporter to write about the Maidan Revolution. On March 15th, 2014, I found myself at the Beagles for Peace protest.
This was one of many protests I attended during my week in Kyiv. I talked to the organizer, Andrij Bovkun, and he told the great story behind it:
“My daughter was watching a children’s show on a Russian channel, and the show has a dog called Phil. In this particular episode, Phil was preparing to go to war and had a little backpack, and was all dressed up. A Russian woman on the show explained to the children that Phil is going to defend his borders because it is very important. This was all propaganda directed at children about the situation in Crimea.”Andrij Bovkun, March 15th, 2014
Bovkun’s dog was incidentally also named Phil, so he gathered several other beagle owners to initiate this unofficial event. This event was made as a response to the Russian TV show – Russian dog Phil is preparing to go to war, while this Ukrainian Phil is promoting peace. It was a really nice and original way to spread a message of peace, especially to the children who had watched the show.
But before you are overwhelmed by the cute pictures and the sweet message, think about why the father did this. He saw that propaganda was being spread to the most susceptible members of society, children. Worst of all, it was being spread through a seemingly harmless TV show. Today, Putin has cut off the Russian people from most Western media.
My mother shared a children’s cartoon with me that explained the fictional Russian narrative behind Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine’s Donbas region. Even if you don’t understand Russian, you can get the gist of what is happening:
Orange Revolution Dog 2004
Although the picture of Nika the lab wearing an orange cape is sitting in a box in my parents abandoned apartment in Kyiv, I’d still like to tell the story here. Back in 2004 my parents took 12-year-old me and our family dog to picket Yanukovich and the assasination attempt on Yushchenko, who had been left scarred after surviving being poisoned.
There were many people gathered at the Russian embassy in Prague, Czech Republic. But reporters from ČT1 took photos of the dog wearing the orange cape. Nika’s photo was published in newspapers and online. Once my parents are able to return, I’ll make sure to post her photo here as well.
Speaking of those dogs in Chernobyl, that are not radioactive as one might think, here is a picture of those too. I got to meet them in 2018. You can help them by donating to Clean Futures.