war in ukraine casualities

Ukrainian IGP Champion 2021 may never do sports again.

...War in Ukraine casualties includes also IGP dogs with their handlers... Russian war forces our sports friends in Ukraine to fight for their lives and future...

Photography: Daria Nastevych and #VogueUkraina #StandWithUkraine, online info from Ukraine

We all know what happened early in the morning on Thursday, 24.2.22. Vladimir Putin and his Russian army began attacking Ukraine. How is this possible? It is incomprehensible – aren’t we living in the 2020s? We should already be more civilized and more humane. But unfortunately, some of us are just the opposite. And they are guilty of the war Ukraina casualties.

Now there is this terrible, unjustified war, and the people who are middle of it have to live with the horrors they are facing for the rest of their lives. We, who live in other countries, may not get scars. But the state of war affects deeply also them, who have friends or relatives in Ukraine, or at least know someone in the war zone. I am one of them even I have built my connection through hobbies – IGP, Working line GSDs and breeding work.

War in Ukraine has made people to unite

I contacted Daria and made friends with her because she own an excellent male, which I was interested in as a breeding partner for my bitch Indy Hanmark. Eventually, I thought it would be difficult and dangerous to travel to Ukraine. Therefore I chose from the other two choices a male closer to Finland. But I decided that next time I would choose that other dog, and wanted to keep up my contact with Daria – and so we did.

Before we even noticed, the world was upside down. I realized that emotions can’t be controlled when something like this happens. I was shocked about what had happened and I couldn’t do but thinking my friend in Ukraine. Despite we in real life were strangers to each other, I wanted to hear that Daria was ok.

We worry Ukrainian people. In addition, dog enthusiasts are sad and worried about the Ukrainian war casualties, including our dog sports friends and their dogs. I dared to ask Daria what kind of life was in the middle of bombing and alarms. And if she would give her story to be published on WLGSD site. She said yes, so here is a real-life story from the war zone.

This is Daria's story, she is one of our IGP sports friends in Ukraine

-” My name is Daria Nastevych, I live in Kyiv where I have lived since I was born. Dogs have always been important to me. I got my first dog when I was a schoolgirl and I started training her by reading all the books I could find about dog training. Later I bought my first German Shepherd and began taking lessons at the dog training club in my city. This dog was a show-line German Shepherd, but despite that, I participated in some local competitions and started also IGP training. Later I took a bitch from working lines. She became 3 times the Champion of Ukraine and we participated in several IGP competitions.

I am also a GSD breeder. My latest litter was Q-litter, and there have been 16 litters under my kennel name. Zera, my old GSD female passed away in January 2021 at the age of 14 years. I planned to take a puppy this year but now I am not sure if this will happen. However I have a six-week-old litter – 6 puppies are staying in my friend’s home in a small town near Kyiv.

Successful IGP team

At the moment I have a young GSD male, FREDDY Tespo Bohemia, who is already Ukrainian IGP Champion 2021. Freddy was elected to represent both the Ukrainian FCI and WUSV teams for 2021. Unfortunately, FCI WM was canceled due to covid-pandemia, and WUSV competitions were held in Spain, which was too far from us to participate.

We have a great training team in Kyiv. We have a good place to train, and we are also able to rent a few different sports stadiums for training whenever we need to before our IGP competitions. My helper is Yulian Hatala, and we train regularly two times a week. Our team has also held training sessions and seminars with many foreign trainers.

The day when everything changed

Before the war, the news reported that Putin had brought tanks and an army to the borders of Ukraine. But none of us thought that it could lead to war. It would mean that someone had to be out of his mind to do such a thing in 2022. There were some estimates of Putin’s plan to take provocative action in the Donbas region but nothing about taking his tanks to Kyiv.

So, I lived my life working, training my dog for IGP and working with the other two, that were my clients’ dogs. The spring was already far and snow was melting. I had just planned to do the first tracks for the dogs on that day when Russia attacked Ukraine and started a war.

1st day

On 24.02.2022 at 5 am I was sleeping when my sister who lives with me woke me up. She said that her friend had called and told her that the war was begun.

At 4 am the Russian army had started to hit with missiles in several Ukrainian cities. We turned on the TV and internet to find out what was going on? Many of our friends and relatives from other cities of Ukraine started to call us to find out if we were OK. 

Up 6-7 am, Kyiv was already paralyzed: some gas stations had no fuel at all, some stations had long 40-50 car queues waiting to buy fuel. Long lines to the pharmacy and food shops. Roads were full of cars trying to leave Kyiv. My friend who left Kyiv the first day was moving to her parents, who lived 100 km from Kyiv. That drive took 9 hours. People were standing in a traffic jam for hours, so we decided to stay home and look at what would happen next.

2nd day

On the second day, we went to buy some food. I had fuel in my car just for 15 liters, and there was no fuel at the stations. Therefore we couldn’t go far, but luckily there was still enough food in our closest shop, and the lines were short. No bread and milk, but there was enough other food.

The air-alert sirens alarmed 5-6 times a day. Russian army bombed a TV station in Kyiv, but they failed, and the missile hit a monument near the station. Five people who were passing by the station died. The TV station was still OK and working. 

Russians tried to bomb also a civil airport Zhulyany, in Kyiv, but they failed that too. Instead, the bomb hit the 24-stages high building, and many people were injured, amongst them children.

One missile was shot down by the Ukrainian Air defense near my house, and part of the missile fell to a building, hurting 3 people.

Many were injured by Russian bomb when it hit the 24-stages high building.

This happened at night when people were sleeping.

3rd day

During the first three days, Russian tanks and the army moved from Belarus deeper into Ukraine and came closer to my home – they were already 40 km from Kyiv.

Before we knew it, the fight for Kyiv was begun. I will not send you these pictures of ruined little cities near Kyiv – Irpin, Gostomel, Bucha, Borodyanka, Makarov, there are a lot of photos on the internet. Houses were ruined, many people died. Bridges were blown up so it would be impossible to evacuate people with cars, and it still is impossible to do that. The only way out from that region was to cross the river by foot. And the only way to evacuate from Irpin, Bucha, and Gostomel is to cross ruined bridges by foot.

I hated and scared the sirens. But people tend to use to all kinds of things. First I was running home when heard the alarm, but in 5 days I was already used to that sound. The truth is, that when the alarm hits, you have only seconds to hide. But no matter what you do, you can still die. Because of that, I started to think, that eventually, my destiny was in God’s hands.

The air-alert sirens alarmed at least 5-6 times a day.

We had to leave

I decided we had to leave when the Russians reached Brovary from the right side of Kyiv and Makarov from the left side. To get out of Kyiv we had only two ways – to head to Boryspil or Obuhiv. We left our home – me, my sister and father, and our dogs, and chose to go to Obuhiv.

We stayed three days with our relatives near Cherkasy, hoping everything would clear up, and we could return home. But that did not happen. Then we moved to our friends in Vinnica city.

On 05.03.2022 at 2 pm, I was walking with dogs when the airport, only 6 km from me, was bombed 8 times in a row. People fell around me. I had my dogs but no place where to hide, so I was just standing there and thinking, no matter what I do, it is God’s choice if I die or not.

After that, we decided to move to Italy, and go to my mother. About 120 km from Kyiv, we managed to bought fuel. It took 2 hours in a line but we got a full tank.

It was a tough trip. I drove first to the city of Hust near Ujgorod to take the dog I was supposed to train, and who still was with me, back to his owners. After that, it took a long time to get to the border, an 1100 km drive, but finally, we arrived in Italy.

We are now in Italy

Many volunteers help here on the borders. They gave food, water, fuel, clothes, a place to sleep. All roads are free to drive for Ukrainians – we don’t need to pay for the toll (vignette).

I am here now with my GSD Freddy. All this hasn’t affected him at all. He is used to traveling a lot and staying in the car. At least some practical use of all the competitions and travels…

As for the litter of six four-week-old puppies and their mother, we took them into the small city of Zherynka. A friend of mine is taking care of them, while it was impossible to transport so little puppies to such a long way. Altogether it took us 3 days to get to Italy.

I have no idea what kind of life I can live in the future. My biggest hope is that the war will be over soon and I can get home to Kyiv, and start working. I am not sure, if and how I can train IGP again. I have talked with my friend who is in the army. He said that tracking fields where I have used to do tracking for 10 years are now full of mines and explosives. Well, at least the tanks cant drive to Kyiv from that direction.

At the moment I am worried about the puppies and how I can find them new homes. Three of them were already reserved to Harkiv, Lviv, and Dniprob, but now it seems impossible to get them to those cities – and for how long, it is hard to say. Not to mention taking them abroad.

This tragedy will never be forgotten

I have many survival stories from my friends who try to live in these circumstances. Some of them have moved away, some have stayed at their homes.

One of my friends was driving from Kyiv, with his old grandmama and her cat, when near Hmelnitskiy his car run out of fuel. Some people gave him 5 liters, so he could drive to the nearest fuel station. People said the fuel cistern would arrive in the morning. So they spent the night in a car down the station, and in the morning they got fuel and were able to continue driving to Lviv.

Two of my dog training friends are still in Harkiv. Russian air forces bombed the city for three days, therefore they have no water or electricity. The parents of my other friend are in Mariupol, where they had no internet connection for two days. Yesterday they sent me an SMS: they are alive.

Two of my dog sports friends are dead. My girlfriend was trying to evacuate her family from Herson by car, but there was a Russian roadblock and the soldiers fired at their vehicle. Her husband and their children were injured, but my friend and two of their three GSDs died. Two days her husband asked Russians for their permission to go and take her wife’s body before they allowed him to do that. Yesterday she was buried.

My other dog sports friend went to serve as a soldier and was killed in a fight near Harkiv.”

I am relieved that Daria and her family are now in Italy. She told me that it is a pleasure to just walk with her dog without hearing the sound of sirens. I can believe that!

When I asked Daria to send a few photos from her and Freddy, she said that despite Italy being a beautiful country, she has no mood to do photos…not yet. That she still was like a zombie.

Somehow people have to try to stay positive. For someone, being positive may be talking about dogs, like “a dog enthusiast talks to another dog enthusiast”… So if that would help Daria at least I can do that. This is not a place for sarcasm or bad humor, but talking about dogs is something I can offer…

Daria and Freddy in Italy


We all wish you the strength to overcome the horrors that this war has caused. We hope you find an anchor point where to focus and move on. We wish you can soon go back for work again, get your IGP team together and start to get ready to sports arenas where you – with no doubt – will shine with Freddy and your great team.

...once I already have planned this, I wish the future will allow this to happen...
Heidi Ruohonen



4 Responses

  1. Thank you to Daria Nastevych for sharing her heartbreaking story. I am so relieved to read that Daria, her family, and her GSDS are safe.

  2. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family and all of Ukraine . May god give you strength and watch over all the people affected and may he punish Putin and all who have assisted in this senseless act of war, May freedom continue and the truth be known in all of Russia

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