“If you walked through the camps, there were just as many refugees who brought their dogs. And that only makes sense. It’s an extension of their family,” Jackson told CNN
Jackson learned that due to illness concerns, dogs coming from Ukraine were not allowed to mix with local dogs in Polish shelters. So he recently found a vacant animal shelter in the city of Poznan and got permission to take it over.
An overwhelmed rescue organization in Ukraine was the first to send dogs to Jackson’s shelter. A van with 17 dogs arrived, along with two refugees, Valerie Liscratenko and her mother, Liliana.
“When they came to us, all I knew was that they had no money and nowhere to go,” Jackson said. “And I could tell right away that they were good with dogs. … I couldn’t help but notice that all the dogs really loved (them).”
He later learned that the two women spent 40 days in a Ukrainian air raid shelter to care for these dogs.
“The dogs helped (them) get through the worst 40 days of (their lives), and (they) helped those dogs get through the worst 40 days of their lives,” Jackson said.
Saving the war dogs
Through a translator, Liscratenko told CNN that she and her mother have a love for dogs in their blood. They have had puppies in the house since she was young and her mother would sometimes bring home stray dogs to provide food and medical care.
The day before the war started, they moved into the shelter with the puppies in their care and secured some older dogs at the nearby factory where Liscratenko worked as a guard.
They ran back and forth from the shelter to the factory to feed them. But when the shelling became too intense to continue the journey, they decided to take the rest of the dogs to the shelter.
Liscratenko said she and her mother were waiting for the right time one morning – after the curfew ended and before the shelling usually started – to make their final factory run. They found that some of the dogs were too sick or injured to come along, but they collected all the dogs they could and returned them to the shelter. She said that after they were brought to safety, a bomb exploded where they had run.
They did not want to leave the shelter, but on May 4, Liscratenko decided to go when the drinking water became contaminated and the people and dogs there started to get sick.
They found an animal shelter in Ukraine, and the people who worked there had seen Jackson’s social media posts about sheltering dogs coming across the border. So they contacted him and arranged a trip for the Liscratenkos to accompany the dogs to Poland.
Starting a new life
When Liscratenko and her mother arrived at the Planting Peace animal shelter in Poland, Jackson said he noticed they were nervous and scared.
“They didn’t know Planting Peace… they’re in a new country. They don’t speak the language. We don’t speak their language,” he said.
As refugees, Jackson said Planting Peace would have helped the Liscratenkos anyway, but because they got along so well with the dogs and had a strong bond with them, he hired them to work at the shelter.
“They know these dogs incredibly well. So they were able to pass this knowledge on to the vet… ‘this dog hasn’t eaten, this dog hasn’t drunk.’ So of course this was incredibly valuable,” he said.
Liscratenko calls the dogs her children and says they went through hell together and reached paradise. She says that the people in the shelter do not all speak the same language, but understand each other because it is love that unites us.