The lengths we would go to to protect the ones we love are immeasurable. And for many, that includes beloved pets. Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, Ukrainian citizens have continuously made headlines for the unwavering devotion they’ve shown to their pets, even as they flee for their lives from the war-torn regions of their homeland. Now, another brave woman is garnering praise for the incredible love she showed for her dog as she literally carried the struggling creature to Ukraine's border with Poland.
The courageous Ukrainian woman, 35-year-old Alisa Teptiuk, had already suffered a great loss even before the fighting began. On February 23, she lost her father, and on the very next day, Russia invaded Ukraine. So, in the midst of unbearable grief and trying to make arrangements for her father’s body, Teptiuk was forced to pick up her life and find a way out of the country as Russian forces closed in.
“While many people were leaving Kyiv, my husband and I were trying to sort out funeral documents from all over the city in order to bury Dad,” she explains. “We went from morgue to funeral agency to prosecutor’s office to registry office to morgue to funeral agency. The siren was sounding all sides and tanks drove around the city.”
Luckily, as a Python programmer working for a German company, Teptiuk had help from her employer as she made arrangements to reach Poland. So, along with her husband, seven other family members, and two large dogs, they loaded up in a small Peugeot 307 and drove the nearly 100-mile journey to the Ukraine border. After traveling for 16 hours, the family stopped in a small village with just over 10 miles left to go until they could reach Poland.
“We decided to leave the village later in the morning because it was dangerous, even there,” Teptiuk relates. “Near the border with Poland there were a lot of cars, and we couldn’t stay in the car for the next three—or five—days, so we decided to walk the last 17km (10.5 miles) to the border. We left at 4 am—it was minus seven degrees. It was a hard trip around mountains and rivers. My kids were crying because of the cold. I wanted to cry too, but I couldn’t give up…it was my idea to go to the border.”
Soon, one of her dogs began to struggle as well. The 12-year-old German shepherd, named Pulya, was having a hard time walking and would even fall down from time to time without being able to stand back up. As they passed cars, Teptiuk would stop them and ask for help, but the already burdened occupants were unable to accommodate them and even suggested that they leave the dogs behind. But even as the old dog struggled to walk on its own, such an action was unthinkable for the devoted woman and her family.
“We couldn’t leave her behind,” Teptiuk says. “Pulya is family…she is old and grey after a lifetime with us. We bought her on the first day of my maternity leave when she was almost four months old. She has been through the happiest and saddest moments of life with us. She understands us and loves us and we love her very much and will do everything to look after her and keep her safe. No one could convince us that Pulya could be left behind. It was not possible, we didn’t even think about it.”
So instead, Teptiuk and her husband took turns carrying the ailing animal on their shoulders for the duration of the remaining 10-mile trek to the Ukraine border. An image of the heroic act was later shared on social media. And the touching photo has since gone viral, garnering more than 31,000 likes on Twitter. “I took a photo without thinking about it too much,” Teptiuk says. “I suppose I just wanted to capture the moment. But now I know how special it is. It shows the world our love and devotion. We're just an ordinary family who love each other.”
Luckily, Teptiuk and her family made it to the border safely, along with their beloved Pulya—who now stands as their “one constant in all of this madness.” Nevertheless, the struggle still isn’t over for them. “A lot of my friends are still in Ukraine, in Kyiv,” she explains. “Some of them are in Kharkiv in bunkers with little kids. I can’t even imagine what they’re feeling now.”
Among those left behind in the war-torn country is also her husband, Dmytro. He wasn’t allowed to cross the border due to the mobilization order enacted by President Zelensky, which prevents men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country. Instead, he returned to their village to help care for his mother and grandmother.
“There’s only seven of them there and almost everyone is over 60 years old,” Teptiuk relates. “My sister’s husband is there, too, with his parents and a friend of his parents. All of them are in one little house without water. There’s no shop, no pharmacy, no water or food in the village and he and my sister’s husband are using firewood to heat the house.”
Though Teptiuk managed to carry her dog to safety and escape with her sister, mother, and their children, their day-to-day life is still plagued with fear and uncertainty. But even amidst this seemingly insurmountable struggle, she has managed to muster the strength and courage to keep going. “It was hard to leave Ukraine,” the brave woman shares. “At first I lost my dad, and now I leave my husband there. My husband is a big part of me, he is my best friend…Our boundless love is what gives me strength now.”
A fleeing Ukrainian woman and her family carried their old dog that was struggling to walk for nearly 10 miles to Ukraine's border with Poland.
This Ukrainian woman carried her old dog for 17km to cross the border with her. 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/wCthUAjqyw
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) March 10, 2022
The touching image quickly went viral, garnering an outpouring of admiration and support.
The strength that you get when your loved ones need you 😭🙏🏻
— Bits336 (@BITS336) March 10, 2022
I'm sobbing. Even more amazing to me, is that in all the photos and videos I've seen, the dogs seem to understand and will let themselves be carried. I don't think I could lift my 85 lb girl, but I couldn't leave her behind.
— Tracey with an e (@TraceyZeee) March 10, 2022
That's strong. A society that doesn't let their pets left behind seems to me, wonderfully mindful, compassionate…seems so unfair that they're being under such an attack. So unfair:(
— Eva Schneedorferová (@uzsezasenudim) March 10, 2022
Exactly. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. I guarantee that old pup lifted the owner many times over during their life. I know mine have.
— Tracy Cas (@TraLC) March 10, 2022
I’ve seen many photos of families leaving with their pets ( cats & dogs).
Testament to the love and kind heartedness of the Ukrainians 💙🇺🇦💛 pic.twitter.com/ggIlcrCZ3v
— Michelle Theresa 🌻 (@shelle_de) March 10, 2022
I've seen some incredibly moving images from this war these past 2 weeks but the images of people who demonstrate that their pets ARE family in good times and war times sear my heart. It speaks volumes to me about who they are and I pray for them with my whole heart.
— Mary's Grace (@callmyownshots) March 10, 2022