A Ukrainian cat has been reunited with his owner in Arkansas after being evacuated from his war-torn home country with help from Humane Society International (HSI).
Persik the cat rejoined his Ukrainian owner, Larysa Frisby, who was in Arkansas when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, after first fleeing to Poland. Frisby’s cousin in Odesa helped move the white, fluffy, longhaired cat, whose name means peach in Ukrainian, to Warsaw before HSI arranged for his trans-Atlantic flight.
“With the outbreak of hostilities on February 24 in Ukraine, it was hard to believe how this could happen,” Frisby said in an HSI release. “My plans collapsed with the advent of the war to return home to Ukraine and visit my relatives and take the cat with me.”
She added, “I had to make a lot of efforts in order to find a person in difficult circumstances during the hostilities in Ukraine who agreed to take the cat out of Ukraine and now, by the grace of God, the cat is in my home with love and care.”
Kelly Donithan, HSI’s director of animal disaster response, connected with Frisby on social media and arranged the reunion just before she was about to leave Poland to fly home to the US, according to a YouTube video and a release from the Humane Society of the United States.
The animal welfare group has been assisting Ukrainians separated from their pets during the war while operating from nearby countries, including Poland, Romania, Germany and Italy.
“This single story of one cat, Persik, is emblematic of [what] Humane Society International has seen through the chaos and trauma of this war: strangers and communities coming together to help one another however they can, including beloved animals,” Donithan said in a statement. “Larysa nearly lost hope of ever seeing Persik, but someone always jumped in to assist and bring this cat out of the war and ultimately to his mom.”
Donithan added, “I am grateful that I was able to help finally get him home. While incredibly special, this is not a unique story. We are seeing compassion every day across Ukraine, Europe and around the world…. Even during the darkest times, it is clear how much pets mean to their families.”
In a blog post on Thursday, HSI CEO Kitty Block said that Persik’s rescue “feels small when compared to the immense suffering and loss,” but the organization saw it as “a sign of hope and motivation to continue our vital work on behalf of animals and the people who love them.”
“Even in the darkest of hours, the bond between people and their pets is powerful—and undeniable—and we’re working hard to keep refugee pets with their families,” Block said. “The war’s outcome remains uncertain, but we’re called to protect people and their pets wherever trouble befalls them, and we won’t back away from that commitment.”
While animal welfare organizations have helped some pets to reunite with their families outside of Ukraine, many others remain in the country after being left behind by owners who were forced to flee their homes without them.
Shelters run by volunteers in Ukraine have been working to care for the animals that have been left behind, while groups like UAnimals provide assistance and try to facilitate additional evacuations from the country.
Update 4/28/22, 4:30 p.m. ET: This story was updated to include a photo of Persik and a blog post from Humane Society International President Kitty Block. An earlier version of the story had a picture of a different cat.