Two Irish men who are risking their lives to bring aid to abandoned animals in Ukraine have successfully delivered thousands of euro worth of supplies and rescued 16 dogs in the process.
Andy Cullen and Darren Bracken from Cullohill on the Laois/Kilkenny border, who run Husky Rescue Ireland, are the first known Irish animal charity to travel out to the war-torn country.
The men set off on the 2,570-kilometre journey last week to reach Sonak on the Polish/Ukrainian border side in a bid to bring two van loads full of much-needed animal food and supplies.
Mr Cullen explained that they managed to cross over the border into Ukraine, deliver supplies to other animal charities they had been liaising with and took 16 dogs back into a shelter in Warsaw in Poland.
The pair now plan to go back into Ukraine to rescue more animals.
“We’ve spent almost 32 hours on the go trying to get over the border into Ukraine and back safely again delivering the supplies and then rescuing some of the dogs.
“All of this done without getting any sleep which really is minor in the scale of what is happening when you think about it. But every little bit helps.
“If we were afraid we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing. Of course we are mindful of what is happening around us and we are taking precautions. We are not fool hardy,” said Mr Cullen.
He said that the queues along the border of Poland and Ukraine are extreme. “We waited and we waited and we waited and then we had to battle to get through the borders. You have to get through the Polish border at Portova first and then the Ukrainian border and then you have to beg to get in.
“Then we drove like an hour into Ukraine and ended up taking back roads to where we were to drop off all of the supplies to a charity we are working with. But we encountered barricades which were erected by locals who didn’t want to let us through, obviously because they thought we might be coming to harm them.
“Once they knew they could trust us we eventually managed to drop off the aid and brought 16 dogs back over the border at Medica where once again there were long queues to get across.”
The pair then drove five hours to Warsaw where they dropped the rescued dogs at an animal shelter. They plan to go back over the border on Tuesday to pick up more abandoned dogs.
Mr Cullen said: “All going to plan we hope to be leaving Ukraine in the next couple of days with the second batch of dogs we will have rescued and then we will be travelling back to Ireland with them - all going well and to plan.”
The men will then undertake the long road and sea journey once again to get back to Cullohill. Neither has ruled out returning to Ukraine in the near future.