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We Are from Ukraine. How the Hatul Madan animal shelter evacuates animals and finds them new families in a time of war

The Hatul Madan shelter has been rescuing animals affected by the war since April. Photo: The Page collage

The Hatul Madan shelter has been rescuing animals affected by the war since April. Photo: The Page collage

The Page is continuing its special We Are from Ukraine project by revealing the stories of Ukrainians who came together to help others during the full-scale war with Russia.

The Hatul Madan animal shelter has been working since April and has helped evacuate hundreds of animals from the Kyiv region and combat zones to provide them with temporary housing and care, and then give them back to their owners or find new adoptive families.

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The shelter was created by Sofia Danylova and Kateryna Dubrovska from Kyiv. The rescued animals mostly come from Irpyn, Bucha, and Borodianka, but some are also from Lysychansk, Bakhmut, and other cities and villages in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

Barbie from Lysychansk returns to the shelter after sterilization. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

Barbie from Lysychansk returns to the shelter after sterilization. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

The Page talked to Sofia about the danger that could result from abandoned animals being left in the streets of liberated cities in the Kyiv region, the origin of the name, and the current problems of the shelter, which now holds more than 100 pets.


Why and when did you decide to create the Hatul Madan shelter?

It was very simple: before mid-March, when the first volunteers started to trickle into Irpyn, it became obvious that there was no place to keep animals rescued from there. By that time, Borodyanka had in fact been ruined, and all shelters were overfilled with animals that had been abandoned in Kyiv before, so there was no room for new ones.

Three kittens from Bakhmut are looking for new owners. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

Three kittens from Bakhmut are looking for new owners. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

When we understood that there were no places that would accept more animals because there was no room left, it became clear that we needed one more shelter. It had to be somebody to create one, and if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. This idea assumed its final shape by the end of March, and on April 6, we were already standing in the premises provided by the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.

There have been many different initiatives related to the war, so why did you pick an animal shelter?

The world is very simple and extremely clear: there were many more people engaged in other initiatives than those who took care of animals. There were and still are significantly fewer people who rescue animals than any other volunteers of any other specialization.

Maksik, a dog picked up at a bus station in Lysychansk, found a new home. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

Maksik, a dog picked up at a bus station in Lysychansk, found a new home. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

Most people don’t understand at all the extent of this problem and, most importantly, the extent to which the problem can escalate. If these animals hadn't been picked, evacuated, and treated for diseases for the whole spring and summer, in autumn we would have had flocks of aggressive strays swarming the city and region. Not many have grasped this simple idea.

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What did the creation of the shelter start from? Who helped you?

We started with a request for premises. Many people reposted it, and we got many propositions, but our search stopped when our friends from Kharkiv helped us contact the press service of the KPI. They, in turn, introduced us to Vadym Kondratiuk, Vice-Rector for Administrative Affairs.

A tiny lap-dog from Bakhmut after bathing in the Hatul Madan shelter. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

A tiny lap-dog from Bakhmut after bathing in the Hatul Madan shelter. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

Then we were given the premises, and very soon they admitted the first group of animals: on April 6, were still cleaning the premises, and on April 13, the first pets started to come.

Why is it Hatul Madan?

Because it was the first story about animals that came to my mind when we were asked the name of our shelter. And also because it’s the "scientist cat".

Please tell the story, for someone might not know it.

Hatul Madan is Hebrew for "scientist cat". There’s a funny story written long ago (by Israeli writer Victoria ReicherThe Page) about the Israeli military and a boy, an immigrant from the former USSR, who came for an interview with an army psychologist.

During the interview, he draws an indistinct whorl that has hung itself on a tree, as seen by the interviewer, who doesn’t come from the same country as the boy. And then he draws two arrows to the left and to the right under the tworl. In psychological tests, it’s a bad sign to draw a hanged one or something like that.

The interviewer asks the boy what he had drawn, and the boy answers, "It’s hatul madan." However, it literally means "scientist cat" instead of "learned cat", the folklore character the boy had tried to draw. So the interviewer misses the whole thing, and as he tries to figure it out, the boy explains that the cat tells a tale when he goes left and sings a song when he goes right. "To whom?" asks the interviewer, and the boy answers: "To himself."

Cat Ginny from Lysychansk with a new owner. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

Cat Ginny from Lysychansk with a new owner. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

Now the interviewer realizes that one of them has gone bananas, so he tells the boy to come later and asks a colleague who accidentally dropped in about the picture. It so happened that the colleague also comes from the former USSR and knows the tale, so she answers, "It’s hatul madan."

Then the psychologist asks a couple of people more, and their answers nearly drive him insane, so he goes to his old colleague, whom he knows to have come from the former USSR, and asks her to explain why the picture is hatul madan. And she says that it’s clear because the cat tells a tale when he goes left and sings a song when he goes right.

The cat Ryska was taken out of Irpen by volunteers after the temporary guardian threatened to leave her in the street when leaving the city. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

The cat Ryska was taken out of Irpen by volunteers after the temporary guardian threatened to leave her in the street when leaving the city. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

This story tells us how imperishable tales are. I have loved this story since I heard it many years ago. This name suited us from many perspectives, including a reference to the KPI, which gave us the premises.

A tale made with your own hands?

No, it’s first of all the literal translation, the scientist cat. Given the number of people in Ukraine who know Hebrew, which is increasing over the years, they would get the reference.

How many animals have been evacuated from places in the Kyiv region?

We didn’t count, but to give a cautious estimation, we have approximately 130 animals in our shelter now, and at least twice as many have passed through our hands during this whole time. This gives an idea of the numbers.

How soon do the animals get adopted from the shelter?

You need to understand that we don’t start looking for new owners at once. Our main task is to find the old ones. Almost nobody does this. First, we look for the old owners for two months, as the law requires. And only then do we begin adopting.

And even more, we have a number of animals who are staying here indefinitely because their owners were evacuated and are unable to take their pets back. For example, we’re housing five cats and five dogs taken from Lysychansk, all belonging to one woman who had evacuated. She is physically unable to take them because she has nowhere to. And this isn’t the only case, for we have a few of them.

Have you found many owners?

Yes. Actually, we’re doing it quite briskly. But there’s another problem because there’s a whole class of owners who say, "Let’s get back to it after the war is won." We usually respond by asking: "And what if we don’t win? Would it mean you won’t take your pet back?" I don’t know what’s on their minds, but for some reason, those people believe that if we have a shelter here and we’ve rescued their pet, it means we must take care of it to the bitter end. Those people haven’t read the law which says they have to compensate us for the care we gave, so they don’t rack their brains around it.

What problems does your shelter have now?

Our shelter has the most pressing problem, which is: we’re craving more hands willing to work! We lack personnel severely. This is the main thing in our lives. We desperately need people, and we’re ready to pay them. The main problem is that people don’t readily find us, either because they overlook this job segment or for some other reason.

The volunteers took the kitten and his mother from Lysychansk. He has already found a new home. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

The volunteers took the kitten and his mother from Lysychansk. He has already found a new home. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

I’m saying it out loud: we desperately need people. We need at least three more people for night shifts since we have enough for day shifts. A night shift is mostly cleaning, I mean the general premises, not the kennels, which get cleaned during the day. All the daytime procedures and events are focused on the animals, while at night we do everything we didn’t have time for in the day’s fuss.

Lobi was evacuated from Lysychansk in May, her owners had been found and already took her from the shelter. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

Lobi was evacuated from Lysychansk in May, her owners had been found and already took her from the shelter. Photo: facebook.com/HatulMadanShelter

The work looks like watering the floor with a spray gun to lay the animal hair and sweep it, washing the trays, which have been soaked before, so you only have to rinse and sanitize them, and so on.

How can people who want to join your team find you?

Solomianskyi District, near Karavaievi Dachi, Polova Street.


You can also donate to help the shelter. Bank details:

  • UA153052990000026003035023137
  • Monobank — 5375411504886255
  • Paypal — [email protected]
  • Paysend — +380997520627

The publication was prepared as part of the We Are from Ukraine project initiated by the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine.

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