Cat Separated from Owner by Russia's Invasion of Ukraine Reunites with Family in Arkansas

Kelly Donithan, the director of animal disaster response for Humane Society International, escorted Persik the cat from Poland to the United States

Ukrainian Cat Travels to U.S.
Photo: HSI

Persik the cat is back in his family's arms.

According to a release from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Russia's invasion of Ukraine separated the feline from his owner, Larysa Frisby, for several months.

In February, at the start of the invasion, Frisby was away from her home in Ukraine visiting family in Arkansas. Before she departed for the U.S., Frisby left Persik — which means Peach in Ukrainian — in the care of her cousin in Odesa.

When the war began, Frisby's relative kept Persik safe and eventually got the feline out of Ukraine with a friend fleeing to Warsaw, Poland.

Frisby reached out to Humane Society International (HSI) — an animal welfare organization on the ground in Poland, Romania, Germany, and Italy, helping Ukrainian refugees with pets — seeking help reuniting with Persik.

Kelly Donithan, a director of animal disaster response at HSI, connected with Frisby to learn more about Persik's predicament and offered to fly the cat back with her when she returned home to the U.S. from Poland.

Ukrainian Cat Travels to U.S.

With a plan in place, Donithan got airline approval to bring the cat on her flight home and secured a carrier for the pet, per HSUS's release. Persik's approval process went smoothly because the feline already had a pet passport and microchip and was up to date on his vaccinations.

Persik and Donithan had an uneventful flight to America. The HSI director kept Frisby updated on the cat's entire journey and brought playful Persik out to Arkansas to reunite with his pet parent after they landed.

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"This single story of one cat, Persik, is emblematic of what Humane Society International has seen through the chaos and trauma of this war: strangers and communities coming together to help one another however they can, including beloved animals. Larysa nearly lost hope of ever seeing Persik, but someone always jumped in to assist and bring this cat out of the war and ultimately to his mom. I am grateful that I was able to help finally get him home," Donithan said in a statement about Persik's story.

Frisby is grateful to all the animal lovers who played a role in returning Persik to her.

Ukrainian Cat Travels to U.S.
Kelly Donitahn/HSI

"I want to express special gratitude to the people who took part in saving my cat from the war in Ukraine, to everyone who provided help and care in Warsaw for several weeks. Heartfelt gratitude to those who were able to bring my cat to the USA — team Humane Society International for their work in saving and protecting animals and for bringing my cat to me, and to everyone who participated in the rescue in saving Persik," Persik's mom shared in HSUS's release.

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues after their forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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