Woman Feeds Dozens of Strays on Streets of Ukraine

She cares for 55 dogs, 8 puppies, and 13 cats.

Published September 20, 2022 12:00PM EDT

Every day, Alina Bondarenko feeds dogs and cats on the streets of Slavyansk, Ukraine, where she lives. They wait patiently as she tosses kibble and sets out bowls of meat.

Then they dine rather peacefully as she walks among them, checking for injuries and overall health.

She regularly posts photos and videos of her four-legged charges on Facebook. And every few days, she shares photos of the massive amounts of food she buys for them, along with the receipts. Sometimes people reach out and offer financial assistance. 

Bondarenko feeds the animals Russian airstrikes and shelling continues around her.

Just a few days ago, she posted: “Here is another day of war, today while feeding the plane was circling overhead, it was creepy … More new pups added, abandoned … I fed the sweeties, the kittens purred a song … All fed, happy and grateful!!! Thank you so much to everyone who is helping for my homeless, in this difficult, hard, horrible, military time!!!”

Bondarenko responded to emailed questions from Treehugger with the help of a friend who translated.

Treehugger: How did you start feeding stray animals in Ukraine?

Alina Bondarenko: I started feeding homeless animals in September 2006. That year I worked as a distributor at the tableware market. Seven dogs had lived there, so I decided to feed them. In December someone threw out another puppy. I called her Dinochka. She has been with me for 15 years. 

How many dogs and cats do you care for now? Do you think these are dogs that were abandoned by families when they evacuated or have they always been strays?

Now I have 55 dogs, 8 puppies, and 13 cats. There are stray ones and former pets whose owners have left.

Alina Bondarenko


How often do you feed them? Is any of the food donated or do you have to get it yourself?

I feed them every day. I buy food in the market. We have very few stores open right now. When I worked, I bought food for animals only with my own money. Now people help a little. 

What are the conditions like where you are now? Did you consider evacuating?

I did not think about evacuation, because it is not realistic for everyone (for me, my mother, and animals) to evacuate together. And I won’t leave them.

The situation in Sloviansk is very difficult now. Russia shells cities every day. But we are strong. We believe in the victory of Ukraine. Animals are slowly getting used to the sounds of shelling, but some are very afraid.

Even in 2014 [the last time Russia went to war with Ukraine], I didn’t leave because of stray animals. I walked with huge bags of food through the whole city. I also saved a few dogs from shell shock.

Alina Bondarenko


Do you ever get help or do you do this alone?

My mom helps me every day. There are problems with transport in Sloviansk, because of the shelling it was canceled. We need to get through the whole city with huge bags in a taxi.

How are your family and friends who are still in Ukraine?

My relatives left for the Kharkiv region, in the village. I have a mother with a disability. She helps me with everything with dogs. Some friends left and some stayed.

During these years, I have cured a lot, sterilized, and housed both puppies and dogs. Also with me in a one-room apartment live two dogs taken from the street (Naida and Belka).

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