Menu

More Daring Than Doctor Dolittle

By
Photo: Lala Tarapakina, the founder of the charity foundation "12 Guardians" (12 Vartovykh) and a Ukrainian volunteer, Source: 12 Vartovykh
Photo: Lala Tarapakina, the founder of the charity foundation "12 Guardians" (12 Vartovykh) and a Ukrainian volunteer, Source: 12 Vartovykh

Despite the continued destruction of Ukrainian cities by Russian occupiers under the leadership of war criminal Vladimir Putin, which results in the killing of civilians and the perpetration of ecocide against wildlife, Ukrainian rescuers tirelessly continue their mission. They strive to save those whose voices are unheard amidst the rocket explosions – stray domestic animals.

Lala Tarapakina, the founder of the charity foundation "12 Guardians" ("12 Vartovykh" ) and a Ukrainian volunteer, found time to speak with the editorial team of The Gaze after returning from another rescue mission in the combat zone near Vovchansk. She shared about the extremely difficult, dangerous, and important work her small team of rescuers carries out – sometimes practically on the front lines.

"At one time, our foundation was focused on the development of national Ukrainian tourism and the revival of cultural heritage, particularly Ukrainian castles. But we shifted our focus at the start of the full-scale war because we realised that there were more urgent needs and skills suitable for addressing them than rescuing cultural heritage – although that is also important. It all began when we started to care for people in the de-occupied territories as individual volunteers, and only then did we notice the huge number of abandoned animals. There were countless. That's why the decision was made to switch to rescuing animals and people from particularly dangerous areas.

We have veterinarians and catchers, we work exclusively with stray animals, and we conduct sterilisation missions in frontline areas of Ukraine. And since we were already working in the frontline zone, we couldn't help but transform into a rescue and evacuation team. It quickly became clear that after each sterilisation mission, when you have to release sterilised animals, there are not always safe locations to release them. So, we started looking for adoption opportunities, transporting them to other regions of Ukraine.

Then we realised that with our skills, we could be useful and effective in areas where disasters had occurred (caused by Russian occupiers). Such a disaster, for example, was the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant. We arrived in Kherson and were able to coordinate a large part of the animal rescue work on the water because we already had the relevant experience. 


Photo: Rescue mission after the Russians blew up the Kakhovka dam, Source: 12 Vartovykh

Eventually, our functionality expanded to sterilisation and rescue in frontline regions and combat zones. Our team has specialised training; for instance, we don't just have dog catchers, but rescuer-catchers who not only know how to apply tourniquets but also capture feral dogs that won't come near humans, and act in critical and complex situations.

On missions, we are not 12, as one might think from the foundation's name, because "12 Guardians" was the number of castles we cared for before the full-scale invasion. On rescue missions, our permanent team consists of three – a driver-rescuer, a catcher-rescuer, and me. Since we work in both the grey zone and the combat zone, I am responsible for the whole team, and if something happens to them, it's better that I am there too. We mainly work in the Donetsk, Kherson, and Kharkiv directions, that is, precisely where the fighting is happening right now.

"This is not heroism; it is a conscious choice, and we understand what we are doing and do not perceive our work as heroism."

Whenever possible, we cooperate with teams from other foundations because there is strength in unity, and we can help each other thanks to our different specific skills.

We have been on a rescue mission in Vovchansk for almost three weeks now, cooperating with the "Animal Rescue Kharkiv" foundation. This is one of the few rescue teams in the country that works directly in the combat zone. On the Vovchansk front, a vast region, there were a maximum of 5-6 rescuers working. We divided into two teams and went to different addresses.

Our team has an additional protocol – we not only respond to requests from animal owners but also patrol bombed villages in dangerous areas from which many people, or even all residents, have fled, as in the case of Vovchansk, leaving their animals tied up. We enter every yard, see if there is anyone alive, and take the animals off the chains. This is the main focus of our missions – to find animals whose lives we can save. Of course, we also evacuate people if we encounter them, as there are zones where the police no longer reach.


Photo: Saving those who cannot cope without outside help, Source: 12 Vartovykh

Working in areas where there is ongoing fighting is extremely dangerous. You must have appropriate training because it is not worth entering a hellish situation if you do not know how to deal with it. We coordinate all our actions with the military, Special Operations Forces, and military regional state administrations. This is because we cannot base our actions on the DeepState map, which lags behind the current situation by about 3-5 days. However, we go on rescue missions independently, without involving the military, because it would be a great sin to expose the Armed Forces of Ukraine to additional danger. They have their vital task, and we have ours.

Working in Vovchansk is very difficult because everyone is under threat here – both military and civilians. The Russians do not care who they target with FPV drones; they hit anything that moves and see everything instantly because the city is divided into sectors, and enemy drones are everywhere: scouts, spotters, drones with payloads, FPVs, Lancets, and large Orlans that can see everything within a 25-kilometre radius. What are our risks? Absolutely everything – from mortars and MLRS to the risk of capture, as sometimes we operate in locations just 200 metres from Russian positions.

In conclusion, I would like to add that I really dislike it when people start to glorify us. This is not heroism; it is a conscious choice, and we understand what we are doing and do not perceive our work as heroism.

We get much more from it than we give."




Recommended

Economics

Reconstruction Under Air Defence Umbrella

06.13.2024 15:49
Life

Ukrainian Laureates of the World's Most Prestigious Photography Awards

06.13.2024 10:15
Politics

A Not So Sharp Right Turn

06.11.2024 15:48
Culture

The League of Ordinary "Gentlemen"

06.11.2024 10:03
Politics

Vengeance Through the Centuries

06.10.2024 10:47

Similar articles

We use cookies to personalize content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners who may combine it with other information that you've provided to them. Cookie Policy

Outdated Browser
Для комфортної роботи в Мережі потрібен сучасний браузер. Тут можна знайти останні версії.
Outdated Browser
Цей сайт призначений для комп'ютерів, але
ви можете вільно користуватися ним.
67.15%
людей використовує
цей браузер
Google Chrome
Доступно для
  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Linux
9.6%
людей використовує
цей браузер
Mozilla Firefox
Доступно для
  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Linux
4.5%
людей використовує
цей браузер
Microsoft Edge
Доступно для
  • Windows
  • Mac OS
3.15%
людей використовує
цей браузер
Доступно для
  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Linux