BELSAT SPECIAL PROJECT
A photo story about animals that did not become sausage.
THEY DON'T KILL HERE
Pony Varvara has been turned over for meat by the owner. The fact that the animal had been trained in riding for the rehabilitation of children with special needs did not even stop the father of a disabled child. The man needed money.
Varya was rescued by Oleksandra, a Ukrainian woman. For more than six years now she has been buying cattle and other farm animals at the slaughterhouse and putting them in her shelter in the village of Krasiv.
Oleksandra Levitskaya founded her Ugolyok shelter in 2014. It is the biggest place for four-legged agricultural "pensioners" in Europe. More than 600 animals have been given the right to a decent old life here.
It all started with one horse which the woman bought from a butcher out of pity in 2013. Then was the second, fifth... tenth horse.
Over time, butchers began to call and offer her to buy horses, cows, goats, sheep, ponies... Sometimes the owners call and offer to buy the animal directly from them.
'Whoaa!'
'Uncle Vitya, he does not understand it. You need to shout "Stop". He's seen nothing but a farm and a racetrack!

NON-ANIMAL FARM
Recently, several elite horses were brought to the orphanage. All this time the animals have been getting used to people and putting on weight. All their lives they have served as "incubators" for new racetrack champions. According to the shelter administrator Natallia, this breed is famous for its fertility.
The mare can be covered almost the day after delivery. However, the future champion is then raised by an underbred mare, and her foal is often given for meat.
There are now more than 300 animals in the shelter. Oleksandra and Natallia are always looking for someone to take their animals. Women say that the hardest thing to do is to find a place for cows. In Ugolyok they are not inseminated, so the cows do not give milk.
"A cow who has already calved here and is still giving milk was temporarily taken by a family from a nearby village. It took the woman a while to talk them into it. But they still haven't come up with a nickname for the animal. They say you will name them, get used to them, and then it is hard to give them back. And you have to give it back – if you don't inseminate the cow again, she will stop giving milk. That's why she lives like this, without a name," says the administrator of Ugolyok.
Natallia moved to Krasiv from Belarus as a teenager – her parents were offered a job at a local collective farm.
Ugolyok is a way for her to change the world. However, it is much more difficult to influence an adult person than to change the attitude of a child or teenager towards an animal. Therefore, a woman believes that the future belongs to young people. All you have to do is set the right example.


Many animals are fed and treated here. The locals are not interested in this part of shelterʼs life, but they are happy to complain that the cattle are starving, freezing, and suffering.
Many animals are fed and treated here. The locals are not interested in this part of shelterʼs life, but they are happy to complain that the cattle are starving, freezing, and suffering.
"And I say to them: have you seen old people? The same is true of animals. Look, this one is limping, and we are surprised that the one over there still walks. This horse was brought to us with such a miserable, sick cough that we thought it was going to die. The owners gave her cold water when she was warmed up.... And she has already survived the second winter with us," says Natallia.
Animals, mostly horses, which require special care, are in quarantine. The shelter rents several stalls at the Lviv Hippodrome.
Not all animals are taken from butchers. Some "pensioners" are bought from farmers. This is how a herd of elderly sheep appeared in "Ugolok". There is even a mountain goat named Erik. It, like most animals, was neutered and released for
free grazing.
Dogs and cats here are mostly dumped off here. Sick and old ones live with Oleksandra. The rest are doomed to life in enclosures.
Next door, also in a cage, lives a wild fox. It was the only animal from the litter taken away from hunters and placed in a shelter. Now the fox will not survive without Ugolyok. Instead of a fox mother, she was cared for by Natallia.
"We have here vaccinated animals with veterinary certificates. Everything is done properly," says the shelter administrator.
Shelter owners are always happy to find a home for their pets.
Even if it is a temporary one. Rose is a lucky horse. She spent the whole summer with her 14-year-old guardian, Martha. The girl had been talking Natallia into entrusting her with Rose for a long time, she even brought her grandmother along. The shelter administrator finally made her mind after Martha had listened to a lecture on animal care.
PLAYING WITH FIRE
Two years ago, the shelter was located in the neighboring village of Brodky and was a real bone in the throat for the locals. They were constantly complaining about the stench, noise and piles of manure that flowed into the village street. This was because Oleksandra kept the animals in her own backyard. Although the stalls were adapted for the convenience of the animals, the place was not suitable. Just a few steps away from Oleksandraʼs house there was a school, a church, and a local cemetery.
On the night of 7 to 8 January 2018, a fire broke out on the site. While neighbors were looking after Oleksandraʼs baby, the founder of the shelter was taking the animals out of the fire.
Several cats and puppies were burned alive, while the other animals were rescued.
Oleksandra says that the possible cause of the fire was the wiring short-circuit failure. But she doesn't believe it to the end, remembering the curse "May you burn down with your shelter" which she had heard more than once from the fellow villagers.

After the fire, the Levitsky family has been changing their place of residence every six months, keeping the address secret.
Oleksandra, the founder of Ugolyok, changed her attitude towards meat food after she witnessed animal abuse in Africa. She says that she has felt responsible for those who need help all her life.
The woman confessed that she wants to have a "normal life" – to finally get a "normal" job and move to a house where there will be water and no fear that the shelter opponents will find her family and do something bad. But she cannot leave the animals, although she is not as strong as she used to be.
"There is a shelter nearby..."
"Oh, the animals are starving there. You should have seen them. And it stinks, Natallia is a bitch. I'm telling you, I've known her since childhood. And I know her mother... She's a real bitch!"
"But I just came from the shelter – it didn't stink for me. Were you there?
"Why bother? People talk."

Moving the shelter to Krasiv made some locals angry. They started the war against Ugolyok in general, and against Oleksandra and Natallia in particular.
People donʼt seem to mind animals, but at the same time many of them secretly resent Natallia call Oleksandra "moskalka" and "katsapa" because she is a Russian-speaking Ukrainian.
SISYPEAN TOIL
A Lviv businessman Serhiy bought the land and built an entertainment complex not far from Ugolyok. Pursuing his own interests and partially sharing the views of animal welfare, he allowed some four-legged creatures to graze on the territory of the complex. This did not please the local opponents of the shelter, Serhiy said. He believes that the "anonymous letter" about his construction equipment being in the wrong place is a kind of revenge for the help to Ugolyok.
"Here, in Western Ukraine, you are an outcast, if you don't live by the commonly-accepted rules. That's why Natasha and Sasha with their shelter can barely survive here. And I think that if a person has found a field, an occupation for themselves, then let them do it," says the businessman.
In the summer, eight people worked at the shelter. They are employees, not volunteers. Everyone gets a salary, lunch and accommodation. Residents from neighboring villages are not hired to work in the shelter. They stole, abused alcohol and idled.
Thatʼs why only Uncle Misha, a shepherd from the local villages, is here. Every day he comes to work from Lviv.
The shelter administrator confesses that at least 2-3 more workers are needed for a full-time job. She is looking for those who do not need to be babysitted. The woman not only deals with administrative issues but also works on an equal footing with men, building a hay storage facility.
"Without me, they wouldn't do it," sighs Natallia.
MONEY DOES BUY HAPPINESS
The operation on the male dog Rudi cost 5,000 hryvnias (about 190 euros). For a shelter in debt, it is a considerable amount of money. But Oleksandra couldnʼt help but save the dog....
She would not tell how much keeping the shelter which has a branch in the Mykolaiv region costs. She says she had once mentioned the approximate amount in an interview, and now she is fighting off the accusations of local people and tax agency.
Oleksandra notes that the Ukrainian legislation in the field of charity is not ideal, and suppliers of feed and construction materials do not always want to work using invoices. We have to find a good deal and constantly work on increasing the number of donations. And this is not an easy task.
Donations from indifferent people from all over the world are the only source of funding for the shelter.
"A foreigner makes a generous contribution donating a thousand dollars to us, and everyone is delighted -- it's a thousand dollars! But in fact this money is enough for literally two days of the shelter operation, and I'm the only person who knows this," Oleksandra sighs.

Oleksandraʼs sister helps Ugolyok a lot. She lives in America and actively talks about it. However, recently, says the founder of the orphanage, Ukrainians have begun to donate more and more. But this money is still not enough. The orphanage miraculously makes ends meet. Oleksandra and Natallia have almost no strength to continue the fight for it. But they refuse to give up: Barbara, Bonya, Klever, Ford, Fiona and dozens of other Ugolyok pets demand shelter and a new portion of food.
If you want to help the shelter, please use this payment information.
Photo/text: Julia Shablovskaya
Editors: Lola Buryeva,
Olga Erokhina
Design: Nasta Chrałovič
Text translation: Oleg Solodukha


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