Continuing my review of this piece by reporter Ulyana Skoibeda. Where we left off: We saw that vulnerable pets, mostly cats and dogs, have been affected and harmed by the war.
It is the unenviable fate of domesticated animals to be completely dependent on humans for all of their needs. I am not sure that Mother Nature actually intended for things to get to this point. Especially where certain “special” animals have their roles reduced to that of mere companions. Which makes them eternal children, never able to grow up and fend for themselves. Which makes them particularly vulnerable in times when their owners are forced to abandon them for whatever reason, be it a natural disaster or, in this case, a war.
Be that as it may, we met some very kindly individuals who care about these creatures and try to help them in their moment of need. Our next heroine in this story is a young woman named Anna Dolgareva. Anna is a talented poet and also a military correspondent.
Whenever she is on assignment in the Donbass, Anna takes time out of her schedule to rescue cats. She finds them at the front lines and sends them back to the rear-guard, where they belong. One time she brought 4 rescue cats back with her to the hotel where she was staying. She had to sneak them in (or so she thought), so she hid two of them in her room, and the other two in a friend’s room. Little did she know, the hotel administration saw everything, but said nothing, even though it wasn’t technically allowed to have animals in the rooms.
A couple of weeks ago, on January 5, Anna brought Martha the cat to the mother of a fallen Commander of a Recon Company within the Volunteer Battalion called “Veterans”. The Commander, Igor Alkin was originally from Tambov. Anna: “Igor was a close friend of mine, he was very dear to me. His call sign was “Sunset”. His group were fighting in Izyum, I had gone to the front to visit him twice, the first time was on his 33rd birthday. I brought him a pie (a pierogi) from the cathedral of Izyum. And on September 20, he was killed.”
A manager by profession, Igor had left for the front in April. When he died he left behind his mother, his father, and a brother. “The brother is also fighting in the war,” Anna confided. “And Igor’s mom, Nadezhda Vasilevna, started to ask me if I could bring her a kitten or younger cat. They have a cat already, an older Persian. And then my other friend, Captain Mangushev, who commands a drone unit, just happened to find this year-old cat hiding out in the ruins of Novotoshkovka. She is what they call a blue-tartan mestizo cat, a Scottish. He called me on the phone: Look how beautiful she is! Mangushev is contantly finding these cats, he has a 3-year-old cat living with him in his barracks. He doesn’t plan to give her away, he takes her everywhere with him. So I went to visit their unit. Hello, guys, I’m here for the cat! And they just stared at me blankly and asked wearily, Which one? We have three cats living here!”
Like all Donbass cats, Martha is very cuddly and very grateful to humans who help them. They are traumatized and afraid of being alone. Martha was starving, and yet she could purr like a tractor. She immediately came down with distemper, so Anna had to nurse her through that ordeal. When Anna finally delivered the feline to her new “parents”, Igor’s dad immediately took to the animal. He picked her up, flipped her over onto her back, and held her in the palm of his hand. Martha responded with her affectionate attempt to talk human: “Mya mya mya!”
The only problem in the family now is that the older Persian cat, Marsik, is jealous of the newbie. Especially when Martha attempts to eat his share of dinner as well as her own! Anna jokes: “Look how this cadaver filled out!” Recall that Anna is a poet as well as a journalist. In one of her own poems about the war, she had written some terrifying verses about “a tail-less cat perched on a corpse” in the ruins of a bombed city:
Крик замерзает около мертвых губ. Перестань быть мертвым, попробуй сесть. Кот не ест человеческий труп, он даже не сможет тебя поесть. Снайпер работает неподалеку… кот бодает мертвую щеку. «Встань, поднимись до бывшей квартиры, где на месте третьего этажа пустота. Будто вокруг – тишина бывшего мира. Встань, покорми кота».
The scream dies out on dead lips. Stop being dead, try to sit up. A cat won't eat a human corpse, It couldn't eat you if it wanted to. A sniper is working not far away... The cat nudges the dead cheek. "Wake up, take me back upstairs to our flat, Where there is only emptiness on the third floor. It's as if, all around us, only the silence of the former world. Wake up, it's time to feed your cat!"
Russia Is Big, She Takes In All
The reporter was explaining to her child that the Ukrainian word for “cat” is similar to the Russian. Russians say kot and Ukrainians say kit.
Her child asked, “What is the Ukrainian word for dog?” “It’s tsutsenya.” And then realized, it had never occurred to her before, Russians have an old proverb, “Frozen, like a tsutsik,” in other words, feeling really cold. Cold as a dog. It’s the same word.
She concludes: Russia is a very big country. It accepts everyone. It accepts Ukrainians, for whose sake it is fighting this war. It accepts the famous racoon mascot of a certain Russian battalion. [yalensis: a racoon rescued, Ukrainians say “stolen” from the Kherson zoo]. It accepts the Zaporozhian dachshund, it takes in Donbass cats. And it must be said that animals often show more humanity than the very humans themselves. The animals are even-tempered and don’t let themselves become bitter. They know how to show gratitude for a good deed. You rescue an animal, you have made a friend for life.