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Kindness of Strangers Reunites Ukrainian Girl with Pet

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

A lovely and remarkable story of war-time goodwill to mend a 10-year-old’s broken heart that demonstrates the generous compassion of complete strangers.


Kitten snoozing on a chair

Several kind-hearted people, most of whom had never met little Agnessa, all took turns helping to get her cat Arsenii travel-ready, out of Ukraine, across Europe, across the Atlantic Ocean, and all the way to San Francisco, so the two could be reunited.


It all started in February as Russian forces poured over the border into Ukraine in their 'special military operation'. The Bezhenar family decided to flee Odessa, but didn’t have the means to take an animal with them. After arriving in a refugee camp in Romania, the family was linked via a refugee program to a man in the San Francisco Bay Area who had opened the doors to the Bezhenars.


In the first piece of good fortune, Dee Harnish, the German stewardess on their flight across the Atlantic, who had kept in touch with them, discovered that the Bezhenars had left a family member behind. “She [Agnessa] missed sleeping with her cat and she missed hugging him, she missed everything about the cat because she had grown up with him,” Agnessa's mum told Harnish.


Harnish then telephoned another flight attendant, Viola, who rescues animals. Viola, who from her home in Hawaii, then telephoned an animal rescuer in Houston, who laid the groundwork for the rescue. The next person on the call sheet was Agnessa's uncle, who was taking care of Arsenii. He not only vaccinated and microchipped the cat, but managed to get the animal a passport as well - before driving him on his motorcycle across the border to Moldova.


From there, another man drove him to Bucharest, where another family of refugees took Arsenii in, after which Mimi Kate, an animal rescuer on holiday in Greece volunteered to cut her vacation short to pick up Arsenii in Romania, but all of the cat’s documents had to be checked there, rather than in the U.S., since he came from a non-EU country.


A tuk-tuk driver, as if the story couldn’t find room for more characters, helped out, and drove Arsenii and Kate from Bucharest back to make her flight in Athens. Via Montreal and Seattle, Aresnii put 7,000 miles into his reunion journey.


Agnessa's beloved cat is now living with her once more, in their safe new home in San Francisco.

 

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