How You Can Help Ukrainian Animals. Interview with Leonie Stein from WAYKS Berlin.
By Ewan Waddell

How You Can Help Ukrainian Animals. Interview with Leonie Stein from WAYKS Berlin.

We recently saw that our good friends at WAYKS Berlin did a beautiful thing by using the revenue from their Black Friday sales to buy an entire ton of pet food for Petners — an animal rescue organisation supporting vulnerable animals in Ukraine. Many of these animals have found new families to live with across Europe from Barcelona to Berlin, such as with Leonie, co-founder of WAYKS, the now proud owner of Gerda.

We thought it only right to use our platform to spotlight the amazing work happening here and offer our audience the opportunity to support also, through donations, fostering or adoption. You can find the links to the relevant organisations below.

Petners Berlin.

UA Animals.

Animal Rescue Kharkiv.

    Leonie began by telling me how this all came about.

    Petners Berlin is an animal charity that was founded just after Russia invaded Ukraine. Their founder Maia is an animal rights activist and she had already volunteered in different shelters in Ukraine. Maia was hosting a refugee in Berlin at the time. The woman was really desperate to help a friend, who ran an animal shelter in Odesa and was worried that something terrible was going to happen to the animals. That’s basically when Maia knew that they needed to act fast and that's how Petners started.”

    “I was following another organisation at the time, called Red Bow Dog, also from Berlin. They had helped Petners to find last-minute homes for some of the animals. They said that there would be about 40 dogs and cats arriving in Berlin soon, and asked if anyone was available to help and take them in. And that’s how I got in touch with them.”

    “I didn’t have much time to choose what dog I was going to foster. Petners had been contacted by volunteers in Kharkiv, who had evacuated the animals from a bombed shelter [Animal Rescue Kharkiv]. They needed really urgent help finding them new homes. After they had crossed the border to Poland, we were sent a document with some photos and a short description of the dogs. They were going to get separated at their next stop, so I had to make a quick decision… and I instantly fell in love with her big ears. Her name is Gerda and she is a very special, kind dog… It was a super long drive in the van - more than 30 hours I think. When they got to Kreuzberg [the animals] were very traumatised.“

    I asked to hear more about Gerda.

    “She was probably the most traumatised dog out of all of them, I guess because of the shelling and the shelter being bombed  - and also because she is a shy girl in general. It took me two days just to be able to touch her and it took like two months until she came out of her shell… But after one week I already knew that I couldn’t give her away again. So I decided to adopt her. Gerda was found as a small puppy on the street and then stayed in that shelter for three to four years — we’re not really sure how old she is. She’s never been with a family before, I believe, and never been in the street and experienced that city lifestyle, so she was very freaked out by everything outside and it took a lot of patience with her. But she is improving every day, loves other dogs and loves playing. I love her very much.”

    Leonie went on to explain how she was inspired to support the rescue work further.

    “At WAYKS we collect bags with small flaws, like samples, older models, or any bag that didn’t pass quality checks. They may not be ‘perfect’ enough to sell them at full price, but they are still great, functioning bags. On Black Friday we run our ‘Adopt, Don’t Shop’ campaign, where we sell them at a reduced price and then donate everything to a good cause.”

    “We thought, maybe this year, it would be cool to put all the money into buying dog, cat and horse food for the shelters in Ukraine. Petners took over the logistics. They have a great network of volunteers in Ukraine and have put a lot of effort into collecting food and supplies here in Berlin. Everything is collected and packed here and is then driven to Prague. From there it gets taken to different shelters across Ukraine.”

    And that’s exactly what happened when WAYKS decided to donate, leading to a ton of food for shelter animals arriving in Ukraine just over a month ago.

    Thank you to Leonie, WAYKS and Petners for the inspiring work.

    Over 200 animal shelters operate in Ukraine. The Russian invasion has affected every single one of them, meaning around 150,000 dogs and cats require immediate support. Below are some more options for how you can help:

    Donating food and supplies. 

    Volunteer as a driver.

    Monetary donations.

    Foster an animal.

    Adopt an animal.

    - Spread the word!

      You can read more about Animal Rescue work in Kharkiv here.


      Interview by Ewan Waddell.

      Photos courtesy of Leonie & Petners.


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