‘When Arsenii is with us, it’s like home is with us. Like part of our home is with us,’ the family shared.
A sad 10-year-old Ukrainian refugee has been reunited with her beloved cat thanks to an outstanding worldwide rescue effort. When Russian forces crossed the border into Ukraine, Agnessa and her family were forced to escape their hometown of Odesa, according to KRON. Almost everything was left behind, including Agnessa’s pet cat Arsenii.
“There was no room for any animal we have,” the girl’s mother, Maria Bezhenar, explained. The family was allowed to enter the United States after spending a few weeks in Romania. On their trip to San Francisco, they met Dee Harnish, a flight attendant who would eventually initiate attempts to reunite Agnessa with her furry pet.
There were tears and smiles, hugs and balloons at SFO when 10-year-old Agnessa was finally reunited with her beloved cat Arsenii. https://t.co/kgZz8dUkJg— KRON4 News (@kron4news) September 28, 2022
“I once left Germany and I know what it’s like to go to another country and not know anyone or anywhere and I just felt this sense of connection with her,” Harnish explained.
She maintained contact with the family after they relocated to the Bay Area. “I messaged her and said, ‘So how are you? How’s America treating you, is everything ok?’ And she said, ‘Yes, everything is good. Except my youngest daughter wants to go home. She cries every day because she’s missing her cat,'” Harnish recalled.
“She missed sleeping with her cat and she missed hugging him, she missed everything about the cat because she had grown up with him,” Bezhenar explained.
Several people worked to reunite a cat with a little girl who had fled Ukraine to the Bay Area. Check out this incredible story. https://t.co/sCNvkAiUzH— KRON4 News (@kron4news) September 21, 2022
Harnish shared the story with another flight attendant, Caroline Viola, who rescues animals, in order to make the small girl feel better. “She just sent me a text and asked if there was anything I could do to help with that huge request,” Viola shared. “And all I could think of was ‘My God, we got a war-torn country here, and you want me to get a cat out of Ukraine?'” Viola began working on the rescue plan from her home in Hawaii, despite the almost enormous task before of her. She contacted Angelica Chavez-Etchechury, a Houston-based animal rescuer.
Here you go: https://t.co/01oTXJYyA3— FlyingTails (@KenWayne) September 29, 2022
“And I said, ‘Well if you get that cat out of Ukraine, that’s a piece of cake.’ You know, get that cat back. The issue was to get him out of Ukraine,” said Chavez-Etchechury.
Bezhenar’s brother-in-law, who was watching the cat in Ukraine, lay the basis for the rescue, inspired by the ray of hope that had appeared. He rode Arsenii across the Ukraine border to Moldova, where he handed the cat over to a driver who brought him and a refugee family to Romania. Arsenii stayed with a family in Bucharest for approximately a month while the remainder of the rescue plan fell into place. Agnessa was finally informed that she would soon be reunited with her pet cat at this moment. “So I say, ‘Okay, let’s pray, but I can’t promise it will happen,'” Bezhenar told the story. “She was happy and she says, ‘He will come. He will definitely come. Just believe.'”
Mimi is an animal rescuer. Kate shortened her holiday in Greece to pick up Arsenii in Bucharest and bring him home. However, Arsenii’s Ukrainian passport would not allow him to board a flight from Romania.
“All the documents must be checked for him in Romania because he just, moved from the country which is not European Union,” Bezhenar explained. Finally, a tuk-tuk driver offered to assist, and the cat was able to travel to Athens, Montreal, and Kate’s home in Seattle before being reunited with Agnessa at San Francisco International Airport late last month. “When Arsenii is with us, it’s like home is with us. Like part of our home is with us,” said Bezhenar.