We won't leave our pets here, say Malayali students fleeing Ukraine

As she took refuge in the bunker with Zaira, Arya arranged all documents for Zaira to travel like passport, vaccination papers and so on.

Published: 01st March 2022 11:43 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st March 2022 11:43 PM   |  A+A-

Ukrainian soldiers inspect a damaged military vehicle after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Arya and Zaira's is a tale of endearing love. It was a few months ago that Arya Aldrin, a medical student studying in Ukraine, brought home a Husky and named her Zaira. 

Even her family back home became familiar with Zaira who shared screen space during family video calls. And when the war began in Ukraine, all Arya knew was that she would bring Zaira home with her, come what may.

As she took refuge in the bunker with Zaira, Arya arranged all documents for Zaira to travel like passport, vaccination papers and so on. Arya carried Zaira and walked for around 12km until the Romanian border. 

Her friend Alankrita also helped, both of them reducing their luggage so that they could travel back home with Zaira. And now, Arya is waiting with Zaira at a camp in Romania to board a flight, fighting her last battle to ensure her pet dog also accompanies her home.

A large number of Malayali students studying in Ukraine have adopted or bought pet animals. And they are not planning to leave their furry friends in the war-torn region, some of them told TNIE.

Ridhin Raj, final-year degree student at Kharkiv National Medical University, adopted Honey, a Shih Tzu, when she was just a puppy from a Ukrainian lady.

Honey has all the paperwork ready to fly. She has her passport, has been microchipped, and has an unblemished vaccination record. Ridhin who is stuck in Kharkiv is sure about one thing -- he is not going to leave his pet dog who has been his family during his studies in Ukraine.

"How can one abandon the pets? They have been our family and will always be," he said. 

"All the paperwork is ready for Honey to travel. I was planning to bring her home after the exams but everything changed. We are now caught in the war," he said.

Arya and Ridhin are not the only students who say they do not intend to just save themselves. 

"Most of the students have pets here. They get the animals because it can get lonesome here and the animals keep us company. Some students bring the pets back home and others sell them when they finish studies. We
intend to bring them home with us. There is no question of leaving them here," says Ridhin.

Babson Grace, a final-year student of V N Karazin Kharkiv National University, has two dogs, Harley, a Golden Retriever cross, and Dreuh, a Husky. Babson said one of the reasons some of the students stayed back was for their pets and the classes. 

"These animals were one of the reasons we did not fly earlier. I am not leaving them here. I have been in touch with those on the border of Hungary and Polland and they have informed me that once we get the animals to the border, they will make some arrangements to get us across along with our pets. My dogs have been with me for the past few years," says Babson.

"When the Ukrainians are being evacuated, the government is giving equal priority to animals. So, when our government evacuates us, we hope our pets are also rescued along with us," he added. 

The dogs were with Babson on the train on the way to Lviv when TNIE caught up with him. 

Some students have also tried to get their pets adopted. Anees Mohammed said that although it was heartbreaking, he gave his cat Cleopatra to his friend. His Ukrainian friend Daniel was going to seek refuge in one of the villages. 

"He asked me if I would escape with him to one of the villages. I asked him even if I couldn't escape, help rescue my cat. He walked for one-and-a-half hours to reach here, with no transportation and took Cleopatra with him. It was heartbreaking to give her, but there was no choice. Our food is depleting, there is bombing but at least my cat is safe," said Anees.

Akhil Radhakrishnan, a second-year medical student, also said he is trying to find a way to take his cat Ammini, a Russian Blue breed, home. 

Akhil was carrying the cat with him, and when in the metro, Ammini curled up under the blanket with the students, seeking refuge from the cold and the sounds. 

"All these sounds scare her. I am trying to find a way to bring her home," said Akhil.


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