GUNTUR: The long wail of sirens warning of air raids frequently punctuated by the whistle of incoming projectiles followed by loud explosions have become part of life in Donbas, like many other parts of Ukraine.
Holed up in a bunker below his house is orthopaedic Dr Girikumar Patil, hailing from Tanuku in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district, who has no intention to return home without his pet animals.
The Indian government has allowed several evacuees to bring their pets with them, but for Dr Patil, it will not be an easy task. Along with his three Italian mastiff dogs, he also has a jaguar and a black panther in the bunker.
The situation is Donbas is fast deteriorating. Russia has a special interest in the region and has been supporting the separatists even before it rolled in its army to Ukraine.
Chiru’s film inspired Dr Patil
Dr Girikumar Patil said he became fascinated with wild animals after watching a 1989 movie, Lankeswarudu, in which the hero, Chiranjeevi, has a big cat for company
‘I’ll protect my pets until my last breath’
Separatists control parts of Donbas. Dr Patil went to Ukraine 15 years ago to study medicine, and after graduating, settled down in Donbas. He later joined a local government hospital as an orthopaedic.
In a telephonic conversation with TNIE on Sunday, Dr Patil said he became fascinated with wild animals after watching a 1989 movie, Lankeswarudu, with Chiranjeevi in the lead.
“Initially, I wanted a Bengal tiger or an Asiatic lion as a pet. In 2020, while visiting a local zoo here, I saw the jaguar, orphaned and ill. With the permission of the authorities concerned, I took him to a veterinary hospital, provided treatment and adopted him,” he said.
Dr Patil named the rosetted big cat Yagwar, aka Yasha. “I used to take him on walks in the forest before the war. Those were the most joyful days in my life,” he said.
Two months ago, he bought the black panther, Sabrina, as a mate to Yasha.
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“I along with all my pets went into the bunker after the war started. They have been cooperative and silent. But it has now become difficult for me to provide them with sufficient meat, as I can’t go out frequently,” he expressed his difficulty.
Dr Patil, also an actor with a few Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam TV serials to his credit, goes by the sobriquet Jaguar Kumar on YouTube, where he has more than 81,000 subscribers.
He expressed hope that the Indian government would allow him to take home all his pets.
“I will never abandon my pets to save my life. Of course, my family is urging me to return. My pets are my children. I’ll stay with them and protect them until my last breath,” he vowed.
Meanwhile, Dr Patil and his brother Ram are helping Indian students arrange their travel documents to return home from Ukraine.