Days after Russia invaded Ukraine, ten-year-old Agnessa Bezhenar and her family were forced to leave their home in Odesa. With no room to bring them along and uncertainty about where the family would end up, they had to leave behind their dogs and cats. The dogs were adopted and a family member who had to stay behind cared for the cats.
After initially fleeing to Romania, the Bezhenars later resettled in San Francisco, but as time went on, Agnessa became increasingly concerned about her cat she’d left behind, Arsenii. “‘Where is my cat? I miss him so much!’ And she was crying all the time,” explains Agnessa’s mom Maria Bezhenar. So Maria reached out to a flight attendant they’d met on their trip from Romania to the U.S. to see if she could help, and she connected them with another flight attendant, Angelica Chavez-Etchury, who was also the founder of animal welfare nonprofit In The Name Of Zoey.
Angelica was onboard and immediately got to work trying to find someone who would be able to bring Arsenii to the U.S. Meanwhile, a plan was underway to get the cat out of Ukraine and into Romania. In The Name Of Zoey volunteer Mimi Thomas cut her Greek vacation short to help and Agnessa’s uncle Sergey transported the cat in a backpack to Romania by motorcycle. Arsenii traveled from Odessa to Moldova, Bucharest, Athens, Montreal, and Seattle before arriving in San Francisco and being reunited with Agnessa. The family couldn’t believe so many were willing to help them get their cat back and they are grateful to all the people who donated time and money to make the reunion possible.