Together with volunteers we were not only able to save the tiger, but also reindeer, trained rabbits, meerkats, yaks, camels, wild goats and bison. I myself took five small dogs, four cats and the lioness Ruru to Europe in a rented vehicle – a truck with a tarpaulin – and then handed them over to a Polish wildlife sanctuary. Many other rescued animals are now living with German families. I kept a sick dog named Monster.

Our route led from Kyiv to Lviv through a corridor controlled by Ukrainian troops. I remember that Ukrainian soldiers asked us at checkpoints if we were afraid to go through the area that was being shelled by the invaders. I always answered: Why should we be afraid when we have Ruru with us! So we covered more than 600 kilometers to the Ukrainian-Polish border. It then took us 17 hours to cross the border. It was exhausting for me – and also for the lioness.

When she woke up from the anesthetic, she urgently needed something to drink. So I gave her water from a bowl through the cage bars. The lioness drank greedily. I wasn’t afraid, the animal looked at me with pleading eyes. In Warsaw we then handed the lioness over to our Polish colleagues for onward transport and thus released her into her new life.

The author of the interview worked before the start of the war as editor-in-chief of the political and business magazine “Intelmag”. She is part of the team of the Ukrainian journalist project of the daily mirror.