BBC News

Rescuing animals from the streets of Kiev

image copyrightThomas Machowicz

Amid the political turbulence in Ukraine, some people are dedicating their lives to the wellbeing of dogs, cats, birds, bears and other animals in the country. Photographer Thomas Machowicz has been documenting the work of the Kiev Animal Rescue Group (Karg), which provides emergency services for injured animals.

It was founded by Mykhailo Starozhuk, who was asked to rescue a cat from a tree after someone heard he was a climber. After another similar call, he created a website and Facebook page. His group now has many volunteers and provides emergency rescue services for domestic and wild animals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

image copyrightThomas Machowicz
image captionGroup founder Mykhailo Starozhuk peers into a guard rail in the village of Rudnya. He received a call that birds were trapped inside.

"We are ordinary people. We do not do something supernatural," says Mykhailo.

"We can just do some things, and we have the necessary equipment. Anyone can be in our shoes, anyone can save an animal. To do it you do not need to be a superman or someone special."

The group is funded by company sponsorships and donations from the people who use its services.

image copyrightThomas Machowicz
image captionMykhailo and a woman who called Karg discuss an injured stray dog. Without a shelter of its own, Karg encourages its callers to take responsibility for the animals they report.
image copyrightThomas Machowicz
image captionVolunteer Alisiia hands an injured hooded crow to Mykhailo from the roof of a building. More crows fly and call loudly overhead.
image copyrightThomas Machowicz
image captionAnother volunteer Jaroslav holds the kennel lid as Alisiia pets a beaver rescued from a root cellar in the village of Pshenychne. The woman who called Karg to have the animal rescued takes a photo.

Cat Fair was founded by Maria Nechepa after working for another animal shelter in Kiev. The mission of Car Fair is to find safe homes for stray cats in the city. There are a small number of cats kept at their adoption and event facility, which is designed specifically for cat comfort and wellbeing.

image copyrightThomas Machowicz
image captionCat Fair founder Maria Nechepa poses with one of nine cats inside the activity room of her business. She keeps a limited number of cats inside her plush facility and co-ordinates foster homes for many more.

Cat Fair hosts events like cat yoga and cat naps (where one lucky person gets to nap in the same room as the cats) to engage the community and find homes for the animals. It has strict policies about safety which the adopting families must abide by. Cat Fair also arranges foster homes for cats awaiting adoption.

image copyrightThomas Machowicz
image captionThe interior of the Cat Fair shelter and adoption facility has been designed for optimum cat comfort.
image copyrightThomas Machowicz
image captionMykhailo and Tania Liashenko talk to Mariia Mykytiuk, owner of the Bird Wings shelter. This is one of the smaller bird shelters in Kiev, to which Karg sometimes brings rescued birds.
image copyrightThomas Machowicz
image captionStasia Mykytiuk, Maria's daughter, hugs a goose at the Bird Wings shelter

Nika the therapy dog was rescued from the streets. Her owner, Marina, has trained her and she now works with veterans of the ongoing warfare in Ukraine.

image copyrightThomas Machowicz
image captionDog trainer Marina Prokopenko leads Nika through a routine of tricks at Kiev's Veteran Hub. Marina rescued Nika from the streets, where she was injured and could not walk for six months. Marina says, "Now, she can dance."

All photographs by Thomas Machowicz from his series Sanctuary, documenting animals and people involved in shelters and wildlife sanctuaries around the world.

Related Topics

  • Kyiv
  • Animal welfare
  • Photography
  • Ukraine