Galyna Karpenski has always had a soft spot for animals — from rescuing them to providing rehabilitation through her nonprofit organization, Fine Whines and Lickers. She and her husband, Peter Karpenski, founded the nonprofit in 2016, with the shelter’s mission of rescuing “hard to adopt” dogs from local animal shelters in Caswell County and the surrounding area.
But when she saw her home country of Ukraine quickly become torn apart because of the war, she knew she had to do something — not necessarily focusing on humans, but rather, the animals.
“All these animals, they don't know what's going on,” Karpenski said “Why are they getting bombed?”
Since Russia began its war over Ukraine in February, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported over 3,400 civilian casualties: over 1,000 killed and over 2,000 injured as of April 3.
But humans aren’t the only ones in danger — animals in rescue shelters are dying in fires, pets are filling the streets, and strays are going hungry due to food shortages. With millions of Ukrainians evacuating their homes as the war advances, more pets are being abandoned. Furthermore, as the war continues, so does the shortage for pet food and supplies. These concerns linger as more humans evacuate, resulting in more displaced animals.
To help with these issues in Ukraine, Fine Whines and Lickers has held fundraisers, hosted online auctions and raised donations since February. The pet food, crates, kennels and monetary aid are going straight to animal shelters in Ukraine, including Tailed Hostages of War in Lviv and the Happy Paw Foundation in Kyiv.
Oksana Koshak, founder of Tailed Hostages, said the support efforts and donations from the United States have helped many shelters in Ukraine. Tailed Hostages currently partners with 16 other organizations to reach animal welfare in various locations, including Kyiv, Mykolaiv and more.
Koshak said that when Tailed Hostages receives monetary donations and other animal items, the group delivers the food and materials to other shelters, especially in the war-torn regions. Currently, Tailed Hostages is located in western Ukraine, away from the main battlefield.
“There are many, many people in Ukraine who could not evacuate in a proper and timely manner,” Koshak said through a translator. “Animals are left in Ukraine in the hotspots.”
Koshak said right before the war began, she was the head of a wealth management department under the Lviv City Council, but when the Russians invaded, she immediately quit to help animals off the streets. She said she is constantly receiving multiple phone calls every day, solving more animal problems, even at the Poland border. Every single day is filled with seeing a number of animals that have been greatly harmed.
“When people left and evacuated or just escaped, they abandoned their animals and they left them there,” Koshak said. “We hope that they will not be abandoned forever, but this is a problem that a huge number of animals are left on the street.”
Koshak said Tailed Hostages is serving the needs of around 100,000 animals in Ukraine.
Working closely with Koshak is Nastya Aboliesheva, a Happy Paw worker in Kyiv. Aboliesheva said the support for the dogs is so vital as many of them are unaware of what is going on. Dogs have died due to shelling, fires and even from psychological shock.
“Animals for sure do not understand what is going on and what is happening right now,” Aboliesheva said through a translator. “Animals, in particular dogs, are very scared and some get panic attacks under the shelling and they're quite nervous. It really is bad for them.”
Aboliesheva said that although animals are facing a number of negative psychological effects, it’s just as bad for humans caring for them, especially for those who are staying back as the war continues.
“Our psychologists advised us to care about our work-life balance, now they are advising us to care about war-life balance, and this balance is not good,” Aboliesheva said.
Although it’s difficult to stay back in the country right now, she and other volunteers do it for the animals.
Veronika Solodar, a volunteer at Fine Whines and Lickers, said her shift to supporting animals in the war occurred when she realized they weren’t receiving the spotlight they needed in the news. As a Ukrainian living in North Carolina, she said humanitarian assistance to Ukraine is important, but animals should be a priority, too.
“It's the cats, dogs, any animals in the zoo, all of them that were left behind in the locked apartments or houses that were not evacuated,” Solodar said. “Yes, priority goes absolutely to people, but that doesn't mean that animals should stay and should be left behind.”
Since she started raising money in February, Karpenski said Fine Whines and Lickers has raised more than $13,000 to send to Ukraine.
Both Aboliesheva and Koshak said they are thankful for everything Fine Whines and Lickers has done for them. And although this money is not going directly toward humanitarian aid, it’s helping victims who are just as innocent — the animals of Ukraine.
“We wish this war will end soon, but unfortunately it is still going on,” Koshak said. “We need continuous support from everyone from abroad because we understand that this will go a long way to help animals in Ukraine.”