Inside the heroic effort to rescue Masha the bear from Ukraine

As the Russian invasion passes the one-month mark, caretakers are scrambling to save animals, too.

Masha arrives at Libearty Bear Sanctuary, in Zarnesti, Romania, after a 30-hour drive from western Ukraine. Masha is one of the thousands of nonhuman animals that also have been displaced by the Russian invasion.

When Masha, a Eurasian brown bear, arrived last week at Halmeu, on the Romanian side of the border with Ukraine, the crossing was crowded with refugees—mothers and children, grandmothers and grandfathers, young women traveling alone.  

Masha was resting in the back of the van her caretaker, Lionel de Lange, had rented to evacuate her from the country. While waiting to cross the border, he opened the back door to let her have some fresh air. It had been a long, 20-hour drive. 

Soon people started to approach, curious about the wild animal. De Lange was nervous about how they’d react. “When we’ve done animal rescues in the past, people say, Why are you helping animals and not people?” he says. When he saw people walking over, “I really thought [they] were going to give us crap about this.”

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