Marina Bayeva, a woman described as “a true defender of her people and her animals”, has been honored with a special prize from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the House of Lords in London.
The international award was presented to the Ukrainian on October 18 for her work helping animal rescue centers in war-torn Ukraine. James Sawyer, UK Director of IFAW, a global non-profit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and releases animals, said: “The situation in Ukraine is tragic for people and animals. But despite the terror, Marina found a way to overcome the feeling of helplessness and do something extremely positive.
“She is a true advocate for Ukraine, people and animals and is a worthy winner of the International Emergency Response Award.”
Speaking after receiving her award from IFAW, which works with 40 countries, Marina Bayeva said: “I was extremely surprised to learn of the nomination and the award.
“I never thought that my work helping animals in Ukraine deserved an award. I was just taking it day by day, looking for new opportunities to raise awareness about the animal crisis in Ukraine and raise funds for animal shelters there. My efforts seemed really small compared to the enormity of the problem.
Marina, originally from Dnipro, and now living in Massachusetts, USA, and working as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, first became involved in helping her parents, who still live in Ukraine, with food and medicine, when Putin launched his full-scale invasion.
However, her attention turned to problems at the animal shelters where her mother worked as a volunteer in the Dnipropetrovsk region of eastern Ukraine.
Due to language barriers, many shelters were unable to apply for assistance. Marina, who is fluent in English and has an MD from Northwestern University, turned to NGOs for help and began working with many shelters to find out their needs. When help was needed at the Polish-Ukrainian border, thanks to a professional network, Marina was able to find students who helped the translators when crossing the border.
As Dnipro has become a hub for Ukrainian refugees traveling around the country, many have left their pets behind. It was necessary to expand activities to raise funds for the sterilization of cats and dogs, build new enclosures to accommodate homeless animals rescued from conflict areas and find food for them. Many animals have been given up for adoption to locals or people outside the country. Some of the animals were also sent to Poland, France and the Czech Republic for treatment.
Marina has worked directly with seven local shelters, gathering information and helping them complete grant applications. She has so far raised nearly $30,000 through her own efforts.
When the public donates on their website, they can donate money to specific shelters of their choosing. This includes the Homeless Little One shelter which cares for approximately 70 stray and abandoned animals, or the We Stand for the Right to Live shelter, which accepts animals with complex medical conditions.
Marina, who has pets herself – a seven-year-old dog called Henry and four cats, Herman, Tyson, Oscar and Oreo, said: “The crisis in Ukraine is far from over, and after eight long months, people are tired, but life goes on in the rescue centres.
“Workers and volunteers are staying to care for the animals in desperate need, despite the threat of shelling and destruction drawing ever closer.
“And with winter approaching, that will be the next big challenge. Many of the animals brought in now are very sick and have serious medical needs, which means they need extra care.
Marina keeps donators informed of where their money is going and how their generosity is helping through a monthly newsletter. A cat from Severodonetsk, in the Luhansk region, was brought to the Kovcheh shelter (the Ark). He had been locked in an apartment for over a month.
The emaciated cat suffered from severe metabolic disorders, but she survived and has since had a family of her own. The shelter also took animals from newly liberated towns like Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
Another shelter featured in the June 2022 newsletter was about Sotnitskoe Shelter, which was able to rebuild its broken stove after receiving donations. More than 250 animals will now have hot, nutritious meals to eat every day. However, the next project is to urgently repair the kitchen roof.
Olha, who runs the shelter, has to travel 75 miles to a clinic to get acute veterinary care for some of her long-term residents. She said: “I can’t just watch and do nothing. I will do my best to fight for their lives until the very end.
Another story that captured many hearts was that of an elderly dog called Krym, named after Crimea, the place he was rescued from. After a missile attack destroyed the house in Dnipro in late September, Krym was found by first responders above his ruined house screaming for his family buried under the rubble, all of whom were killed in the attack .
Donations came from all over. These have included the Society for the Care of Animals in Poland. They donated two tons of animal food to distribute throughout Ukraine.
Marina has also been successful in securing International Fund for Animal Welfare emergency relief grants for several animal shelters. This, she hopes, will help them get through the winter.
Despite receiving her award, Marina praised the many other volunteers and added, “The people who work in the centers are unsung heroes because their work may not be glorious, but they are dedicated and consistent. They come to work day in and day out, often doing everyday tasks like feeding, cleaning and caring for the animals, all of which are equally important.
Along with urging people to donate, Marina is also encouraging the public to email anything they want to say, along with a photo or two if they want. She thinks such messages of support help staff get through the day and feel they are not alone in their work.
Marina’s fundraising website is called Help Animals Survive the War in Ukraine and can be found at: https://givebutter.com/wtSBYy