In photos: Kharkiv rehabilitation center for mutual therapy of people and cats evacuated from combat zones of Russia’s war in Ukraine

Karina Bondar - 05 June 2024 | 14:19

The Little Prince rehabilitation center is a therapeutic place for people and cats. Kharkiv. Gwara Media journalists came there to find out how animals help people and how people help animals after evacuation from the places made unlivable by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Animals here were rescued by NGO Animal Rescue Kharkiv, 

“We rehabilitate both cats and people. All the cats you see here [in the rehabilitation center] came from the war zone: from the [Dnipro’s] left bank in the Kherson region, Donetsk region, and Vovchansk and Kupiansk,” says Olena Yakovleva, head of the Little Prince rehabilitation center.

Olena, head of the Little Prince rehabilitation centre, holds her cat Marquise / Photo: Polina Kulish for Gwara Media

The center currently houses about 200 cats. In addition to them, aquarium fish were evacuated from the pet shop Olena owned in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk Oblast. The building of the pet shop in the Donetsk region became too dangerous to keep animals because of the shelling, so the woman moved to Kharkiv.

Rooms in the rehabilitation centre are equipped for comfortable living and leisure of more than 200 cats / Photo: Polina Kulish for Gwara Media

Olena opened the rehabilitation center on August 15, 2023, and since then, more than 20 employees have been taking care of the animals here.

“The cats are stressed. Their owners abandon them, lock some in their houses [as owners evacuate — ed.]. Some cats, sometimes even with bullet wounds and burns, were caught by our volunteers right on the street,” said Olena.

The cats of the rehabilitation centre receive medical care from Animal Rescue Kharkiv veterinarians / Photo: Viktoriia Mankovska, Gwara Media

Petting cats produce oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress and anxiety in humans via reducing their level of cortisol. Cats can also become a source of emotional support, especially for those who feel lonely. Their purring calms people down. 

The Little Prince rehabilitation centre / Photo: Viktoriia Mankovska, Gwara Media

Rehabilitation center has a cafe for visitors, too. Owners use their earnings to evacuate and take care of the animals.

Since the beginning of the Russian offensive in the north of the Kharkiv region, volunteers of the NGO Animal Rescue have evacuated more than 500 animals from the Vovchansk and Lyptsi directions.

The Little Prince rehabilitation centre / Photo: Viktoriia Mankovska, Gwara Media

Photo credits: The Little Prince rehabilitation centre / Photo: Polina Kulish for Gwara Media

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  • On April 29, at about 6:00 p.m., the Russian army dropped two bombs in the Kyivskyi district of Kharkiv, hitting the ground near an animal shelter and a residential area. A 42-year-old man was injured due to the Russian shelling.  
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