Series of heart-wrenching photos reveal bond of friendship and loyalty between refugees and their pets
A Polish photographer who travels the world capturing the mistreatment of animals has now turned his attention to the plight of Ukrainian refugees and their pets.
Motivated by a need to pay tribute to “all those who, in the face of war, were still determined to take care of their closest animal friends, be they cats, dogs or a little mouse”, Andrew Skowron’s most recent documentary project began at Katowice train station and subsequently took him to stations in Warsaw, Przemyśl, Wrocław and Kraków.
Writing on his Instagram feed, Skowron said: “Every day I meet more people and their animals who share a friendship and loyalty in times of war.”
With millions already displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the growing humanitarian catastrophe has become a well-documented aspect of the war.
But whilst the conflict has done much to reveal mankind’s capacity for barbarism and brutality, it has also cast a softer and more tender light on qualities such as compassion.
Never is this more pronounced than viewing Skowron’s photographs.
Taken at various transit points and reception centres around Poland, his pictures demonstrate the unbreakable bond between people and their pets.
In one, a young girl, her face obscured by a floppy hat, hugs her small dog tightly as its head pokes out of a backpack; in another, a pig-tailed child smiles warmly at her equally cheerful dog.
Capturing a fleeting moment of happiness, it is a touching moment of joy for a child whose world has been inexplicably turned on its axis.
“When photographing the animals of refugees from Ukraine, a smile always appears on their faces,” writes Skowron on his Instagram account. “In these few seconds they are able to escape their thoughts of the war.”
Describing animals as refugees themselves, his hard-hitting pictures were taken over the course of a week in March and feature not just cats and dogs, but also parrots, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and mice.
Sometimes taking his pictures covertly, Skowron was able to catch intensely personal moments such as one woman warming her dog by an open fire or a girl trying to feed a terrified cat.
“Everyone arrives tired, hungry and thirsty, both people and animals,” he writes on his Insta. “Animals don’t understand the situation, and you can see the fear in their eyes.”
Adopting his own four-legged refugee, a one-eyed cat he has since christened Borys, Skowron’s empathy shines through in his photographs – with her worldly possessions packed into a wheelie-case, one picture shows a woman dragging her bag past a railway station as her dog peers out of the top.
“The war allowed one suitcase and a friend to be taken away,” reads Skowron’s accompanying text. Simply captioned, it is an image of such though-provoking power that it require no more words.
Likewise, in another heart-breaking photo a woman can be observed sat on the floor of Katowice’s railway station surrounded by her meagre belongings – irrevocably shattered as her world might be, a dog nuzzles her warmly on one side, whilst from another her cat looks out from a carrier towards a pink ribbon.
Laced with a heavy sense of poignancy, it is a scene that encapsulates not just the far-reaching consequences and heartless depravity of Putin’s ambitions, but also the unconquerable love and comfort that animals offer.