May 20, 2024

The Pigeons Are Coming Too


The Pigeons Are Coming Too
Portrait of a pigeon. Dori, Wikimedia Commons.

Pigeons live on every continent except Antarctica. The birds repulse most people, since they eat trash and carry diseases. Cherta interviewed Anya, who took her more than 10 pets, including multiple pigeons, from Russia to Montenegro after mass mobilizations began in Russia.

Today, Anya is an influencer who documents her life with her pets, especially pigeons, on Instagram and TikTok. She was not allowed to have pets as a kid. One day, while visiting a pet store with her classmates, Anya slipped her hand into an open fish tank and stole a turtle. When she returned with her purloined turtle, which she named Vasily, her mother allowed her to keep it, as long as Anya would be the one to look after him. Vasily grew so much that Anya eventually had to donate him to the Krasnodar City Zoo.

After Vasily, Anya became obsessed with bunnies. She didn't use to pay attention to pigeons and steered clear of the disease-carrying birds. That changed when she found Gustav near her doorstep. The bird was squeaking, limping, and could not take off. Anya was scared to touch it, so she promised herself that she would take the wounded bird under her wing if the bird was still there when she returned from work.

When she returned from work that day, she was already in bed watching Youtube with her boyfriend, Vova, when she remembered, "Damn, the pigeon." The couple went outside, found the bird, and put it in a box. They had newborn bunnies at the time and were worried the wounded pigeon could infect them all. They took the pigeon to their rabbit specialist, who took some X-rays and then sent them to an ornithologist, who said Gustav seemed to have gotten tangled in a tree, which dislocated his wing, tore his eye, and hurt his paw. So the couple temporarily took him in.

Gustav was still a chick and growing. Anya and Vova were planning to release him during the spring, once he healed and it was warmer outside. But the pigeon kept coming back to the apartment. Today, Gustav has his own Telegram channel with 5,000 subscribers. And Anya began taking pigeons in. Yet she told Cherta that "healthy birds should not really live in captivity." The couple only takes in disabled pigeons or those raised in dovecotes.

In September 2022, President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization. As Anya described it, she and her boyfriend "went crazy." At the time, they had 8 pigeons, 7 rabbits, two guinea pigs, and rats. Vova fled to Kazakhstan while Anya stayed in Moscow and explored ways to transport the animals abroad. But while they were planning to move to Montenegro, Vova picked up another pigeon.

Opezdol, their new bird, was sick with chicken pox. The only medicine to treat him required a prescription. One of Anya's subscribers, a pharmacist in the Kazakh city where Vova was staying, was able to provide the necessary medications. Opezdol recovered, but could not return to the wild. But Vova secured documents to transport him from Kazakhstan to Montenegro.

Anya admitted there was not a lot of information on the air transportation of pigeons, rats, and guinea pigs. The hardest part was getting all the required documents. She faced no problems at the airport and fellow passengers helped her and even played with the animals. Despite her large number of pets, Anya found housing in Montenegro easily by showing landlords how well she took care of the animals. 

Anya does not yet have access to all the doctors and medications she needs in Montenegro, so she travels regularly to Russia to get them. Despite being away from her homeland, she still finds a way to help animals in need find a home in her apartment. Even though Anya does not plan to get involved in NGOs, she said "I make my contribution to the best of my ability, without passing by those who others pass by." 

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