I’ve been back in Greece for about a month now. It is chillier and rainier than I expected, but every day brings more color to the hillsides: wild purple iris, pink anemones, white daisies, yellow dandelions. Lydia and her boyfriend Galen were here for all of February. Lydia is quite the cook and baker these days—not sure where she got that from—so our days mostly revolved around meals and stoking the fire. Jonathan came home in the middle of the month and we all were happy to add another to the gang in quiet Koukouleika.
At the end of the month the time came for Lydia and Galen to head off to their next adventures in Spain and Oregon, respectively. So Jonathan and I decided to drive down to Athens with them to give them a proper send off and spend a few days in the city. That, of course, meant bringing both dogs (Lada and Molly) and the bird, Plato, with us. Our rolling menagerie must have been quite the spectacle for the tollbooth folks. Having two country dogs with us, one of them rather neurotic, changed the urban experience somewhat. We spent much of our time in the park next to the Acropolis. It is much wilder than one would expect and truthfully much quieter. All of us—including the bird and dogs—were sad to see Lydia and Galen go.
I’d been home a week when I started feeling restless. Jonathan is very busy these days writing, the weather isn’t great for gardening, I can only go on so many walks, my online tutoring has slowed, and it’s still too cold for swimming. I have some extra time on my hands, which feels very foreign to me. And then the war in Ukraine broke out.
I’ve been glued to the news, social media, editorials, etc.—trying to understand, to make sense of it all. I’m not having much luck with making sense of it. I just find myself becoming sadder and then more enraged. This event sparked a desire in me to do something to help, something physical, like driving buses, or carrying equipment, packing boxes, anything. My body was telling me to go. And so I did.
I write this while sitting on a jet plane, on my way to the Polish-Ukraine border.
Here’s the backstory: My dear friend Laurel who I worked with in Sofia, has a brother, Nathan, who’s been living in Kyiv for 5 years. While living there he adopted a street dog, Misha, and has made it his home. Laurel’s entire family, including her mom from Iowa, spent this past Thanksgiving in Ukraine. Laurel’s partner’s mom from Bolivia also joined. They all loved Kyiv, and especially loved all of Nathan’s Ukrainian friends. The pictures of the entire family enjoying this beautiful city are heart wrenching now. Their little girl Sofia especially loved the jellyfish museum.
Nathan left Kyiv around a month ago to travel to Buenos Aires to teach tango. He left Misha with friends. Last week, when his friends were evacuating to a bomb shelter, the noise frightened Misha and she ran off. The family was heartbroken and thought Misha was forever lost, but they did everything they could to find her from afar, including a Facebook plea shared over 600 times. A stranger had seen the post and, noticing the dog in distress, grabbed it and brought it to a shelter. Misha was found and safe, for now.
But she was still in Kyiv, where Nathan had no way of reaching her. He needed to get her out of there. Nathan contacted the Ukrainian organization which facilitated Misha’s adoption. They found a Canadian woman, Lana, who was willing to foster Misha, and attempt to bring her to safety in Poland. Lana has been waiting a few days in hope that safe passage from Kyiv to Poland is possible. She heard yesterday from a friend that there is a convoy heading west—safety in numbers!
So how did I get involved? When I heard that Misha was lost, it broke me. All these innocent people and creatures fleeing the noise and danger, lost in their confusion. I was immediately reminded of my visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin—large slabs of grey granite that grow larger as you venture deeper into the monument. The sensation is suffocation and eventually death. The sensation of terror when I first visited the monument flooded over me as I read the news about Misha. I immediately knew that I had to help.
Once Laurel got the news that Lana was on her way with Misha, she needed someone to meet them at the border. I happily volunteered—such a small gesture, amongst many many heroic sacrifices being made. Under normal circumstances it takes 8 hours to reach the border from Kyiv. Then who knows how long to actually get over the line to the Polish side. The plan is for me to meet Lana once she crosses, get Misha, and a cat (more details to follow). Then I will drive Misha to Sofia, or a Polish Taxi driver will drive me, or Laurel’s partner Joaquin will meet me somewhere along the route; nonetheless, it will be in either a rental car or taxi. The details are all fuzzy right now until we know which border crossing, and when, Lana, Misha, and other furry creatures will arrive in Poland.
For now, I am on a plane traveling from Thessaloniki to Krakow. Hopefully I’ll know more soon.
This just isn’t about a dog, but much more. Truthfully though, even if it is just about a dog, that is OK too.
Please considering donating to one of the many animal Ukrainian animal shelters risking their lives for these creatures.