The Grandmothers of Odessa: Saving Pets in war-torn Ukraine

Since the war began in Ukraine, Greater Good Charities has delivered truckloads of pet food to shelters and individuals dedicated to caring for orphaned pets. Efforts have spanned across Ukraine, including the southern seaside city of Odessa.

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Odessa is known for its architecture and warm breezes from the Black Sea. However, amidst the historic stone buildings, explosions rumble and sirens wail as the city is repeatedly shelled.

Despite the daily horrors of living in a war zone, a band of compassionate elderly citizens has chosen to stay and protect thousands of stray cats and dogs left behind.

They are the Grandmothers of Odessa.

Grandma Nina

Nina Vasylivna Pavlenko waits for the air raid alarms to end before hurrying into the yard, where more than 30 cats live. Nina has been feeding and caring for the colony for many years.

Although she is over 70 and nearly blind, she cares for the cats despite her fatigue, fear, and illnesses.

When encouraged to evacuate to safety, Nina shook her head. "How can I leave? Who will take care of the cats? They are scared and hungry, too. I have lived a long life, but they will die without me. No, I won't leave."

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Grandma Olga

Since the beginning of the war, the number of stray animals on the streets has increased. Their fleeing owners abandoned some of the dogs and cats, while others were lost in the confusion of evacuation.  
Olga Vasylivna Klyutsuk, a beacon of compassion, dedicates her time and resources to feeding the cats near the closed sanatoriums. She selflessly spends her own money between supply deliveries, and her brood grows with each passing week.

Concerned visitors bringing supplies ask, "Is it hard for you, Grandma Olga? Walking to several feeding spots, carrying heavy bags of food or pots of food for the cats?"

Olga's voice trembles with emotion as she shares, "It's a struggle, no doubt. But I'd rather go hungry than see them starve. My heart breaks for each one. Before the war, we had a handful of cats, all well-fed and content. But now, the streets are filled with the sight of thin, abandoned, and sick ones. I can't bring them all into my apartment, so we feed them on the streets, near closed cafes and sanatoriums, surviving on our meager pensions."

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Grandma Tosya

Grandma Tosya Antonina Novytska says that the cats she has given shelter to and cares for in an old Odessa yard give her the strength to live and get up every morning after terrible nights of explosions. 

Like many other elderly people, Tosya will not leave the city.

They all have their own reasons: loneliness, fear of the unknown, or the impossibility of parting with a beloved city where they spent their lives. But some, like Tosya, stay for the cats and dogs. These animals, Murkas, Vaskas, Shariks, and Ryzhiks, are not just pets but pillars of comfort and companionship.

They wait for Grandma Tosya every morning, wagging their tails, and nudging their faces into her wrinkled hands, reminding her that she is not alone in this war-torn city.

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These grandmothers and the dogs and cats they care for walk through the horror of war together. They support each other, give each other a reason to live, and do not give up.

The Grandmothers of Odessa are genuine heroes. Even in their own suffering, they find the strength and warmth in their hearts to share their love with the orphaned pets of war.

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Our ongoing Efforts

Greater Good Charities continues to deliver nutritious pet food and essential supplies to Ukrainians in need. These deliveries are a lifeline for the people and pets struggling amid the ongoing war. You can help provide food and aid to those who need it most.

Become a monthly donor to provide relief for as long as the war continues.