Andrea Cisternino, an Italian vegan who looks after 400 animals in his animal shelter close to Kyiv, has chosen to stay in Ukraine despite the Russian invasion.

A former photographer from Rome turned animal rescuer, he said he would “rather die” than leave the animals. The dogs, cats, sheep, pigs and goats he looks after at his sanctuary must be terrified from the sound of explosions around the city. Cisternino has been living in Ukraine for the last 13 years. Together with his Ukrainian wife and three other people, it is believed they are still seeking refuge at the sanctuary.

In one Facebook post from the first night of the invasion, he said: “Here the curfew is from 10pm to 7pm, everything is shut off, sheltering in the dark, houses with few lights, dark here, more explosions a little while ago, let’s hope for a peaceful night.”. On 25th February he posted “Hi, here I am, we are all fine even if they shoot, at about 18:25, if everything is ok I will be at Vita Live. Sorry but I can’t read all the dozens of your messages, btw THANK YOU for thinking of us.”  

As for 3rd March, when reports say the Russian attack on the city has intensified, there has not been any new post from him, but someone else has posted this: “Just talked to wife Vlada who recently heard Andrea. At the shelter, everything is fine, both for Andrea, for the 3 people who are with him, and for all the animals. Supplies are there, currently self-sufficient. The war situation can be followed constantly on TV and media. Vlada everything she can know, she tells me and I will publish it to you. The situation is definitely not the best, we can only feel it moment by moment. I repeat you CAN NOT get to the shelter by any means because they are isolated….. There are some European parliamentarians who are organizing with the Red Cross to create a humanitarian corridor, they will know more in the coming days.”

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.