How to escape the war with your pet?

Daria Ostapenko, a graphic designer originally from Simferopol, who is now working in C3 Prague, shares her story of traveling from Kyiv to Prague with her cat Rikki. We meet in a cosy apartment that Daria is currently renting in Prague, where she lives with her beloved cat.

Many people who fled from Ukraine to the Czech Republic since the beginning of the full-scale war on February 24, 2022, did not go alone, but with their pets. What documents should be prepared to travel abroad with a pet from Ukraine? How to register your furry friend in the Czech Republic?

How did you prepare for the trip to the Czech Republic with your cat?

The thing is, we somehow prepared Rikki for a trip some time before the war started. In December 2021, I went to the vet to have Rikki’s annual vaccination. Then our doctor suggested to replace the old cat’s passport with a new international one, which may be useful in case of traveling abroad with Rikki. Microchipping was also necessary – it was done in a public clinic because private ones do not do it in Ukraine. Therefore, at the beginning of the full-scale war, we already had all the documents collected for departure.

The full list of documents that you need to prepare in order to register your pet in the Czech Republic can be found here.

How long did it take you to complete the paperwork?

First, we went to the examination with my cat, they looked at her lungs and, while Rikki was under anaesthesia, the vet immediately made a microchip. Then we were given a barcode from the chip, which we needed to paste into a new vet passport.

I called Rikki’s vet from a private clinic regarding the international vet passport, he informed another doctor at the state clinic, so I was received there without a queue. I was asked for my personal identity, no other documents were needed for the cat’s passport, except for vaccinations, which we used to do every year. Of course, for anyone who is processing paperwork for their pets now during the war, the procedure may be longer.

What documents were you asked at the border?

We were going to the Czech Republic from Lviv through the Polish border, and I was asked only for the documents that I had prepared – a passport with all the vaccinations and a microchip. If I didn’t have it and tried to leave with my cat from the war zone, she could have gotten chipped and get all the required documents for free at the Polish border. At the border, you could get the necessary pet food an animal carrier for free.

Daria’s cat, Rikki, has already settled into her new place in Prague.

What did you prepare for the trip?

I bought a leash and a vacuum box to take liquid cat food with me. There is some moisture in the liquid food –  it is very convenient for traveling with pets, they can get water from it.

How did Rikki manage a long journey?

It was very hard for her. Overall, Rikki had two journeys – first on February 24 from Kyiv to Lviv by bus, and then on April 5 from Lviv to Prague by train. On the first day of the war, the company I worked for organised our evacuation from Kyiv. We travelled by bus for more than a day – me, my husband and my cat. Before the trip, we didn’t have time to buy food for ourselves. We had only 0.5l of water for the two of us, the cat was really stressed, crying and running around on the leash all the time – it was like hell. We took Rikki out of her usual life, and for cats it is usually crucial.

What was the toughest moment?

There was a moment when I was very scared. More than half of the way had already passed – we left at 4 pm, and it was already the next morning. The cat was exhausted, so she fell asleep fast. We tried to wake her up, but she did not move. I had a panic attack – it happened for the first time in my life. Later, Rikki woke up, and we calmed down a bit. It was one of the most horrible moments of my life. The journey from Lviv to Prague by train was easier. The cat already remembered this experience of the road, so she was silent and perceived it as something familiar. It was more difficult for me, because I was going on my own without knowing what to expect in the new country. In the train, I tied Rikki on a leash, so that she could walk and eat.

Daria is very attached to Rikki and cares for her with special affection.

Did you register the cat in Prague?

Yes, I did. I found the nearest veterinary clinic to my place of accommodation. There were Ukrainian and Russian-speaking doctors at the clinic – it was easy to understand each other. The first visit was at the expense of the clinic. We ordered a Czech vet passport, in order to make it, I provided the international passport that I had made for the cat back in Ukraine, as well as the microchipping. Later, I received a call and came to pick up the passport. The cat was added to the database.

Were there any problems with finding a place to live with the cat?

Our apartment owner did not have any issues with it. In addition, the apartment was rented without any furniture, so there was no risk of the cat scratching it. Generally, when I was looking for an apartment, I prepared a text that I would send out and explain, that I have a cat, but it is entirely my responsibility. By the way, before I settled in the apartment where I live now, I stayed in several hotels. All of them gladly accepted me with Rikki. But she is certainly happier in our apartment with all her toys, scratchers and a lot of space to run around!

Daria Ostapenko

She was born in 1996 in Simferopol, Crimea. In 2013, Daria entered the Taurida National V.I. Vernadsky University to the Faculty of Philosophy. During the first year of her studies, Daria witnessed the occupation of her hometown and the entire peninsula by Russia. For a year and a half, she was trying to transfer to a university in another part of Ukraine, but her parents did not encourage their daughter’s desire to leave the occupied Crimea. In 2016, Daria moved to Kyiv, as Taurida University moved its base to the capital. Later, she enrolled in graphic design courses, and immediately started her career. Daria has quite a lot of experience in graphic design, despite her young age: she worked in a well-known printing house in Odesa, the Vsi. Svoi project, which is based on the unification and cultivation of Ukrainian brands, and one of the largest IT companies in Ukraine. Daria is mostly fond of heavy music, cinema and attending various festivals.

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