A brave dog owner crammed her 20 French bulldogs into a car and drove through Ukraine as Russian bombs fell overhead - and she's preparing to return to the warzone to save more 'defenceless animals'.
Olena Lukash initially 'didn't believe a war could start' in her home country until Russian shells began to land near her house, just outside of Kyiv. However the 53-year-old soon realised she would have to save her " four-legged children " from the terrifying threat as she decided to flee her home and head for Poland. Photos show 20 of the dogs squeezed into the kennel owner's Hyundai Tucson for the four-day drive - the poor pooches blissfully unaware of the terror they were escaping.
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Remarkably, after Olena and her husband Alexander left the dogs in Poland they then returned to their Russian-occupied town to rescue 30 more and then fled to Vinnitsa, 173 miles away from Kyiv.
Next week, the breeder will face the same gruelling drive back to Poland, but Olena admits money is running out fast as they face a £378 [₴14,699] bill each week just to feed the dogs. Olena, from Kyiv, Ukraine, said: "My dogs are my children. My job is my dogs. These are all French Bulldogs - my favourite breed for 30 years now. "I didn't believe a war could start. The first week I thought that everything would end quickly, then shells began to fall near the house and I realised that I needed to save my four-legged children.
"I took the first batch of dogs, 10 dogs and 10 puppies, to Poland on March 9. The drive took me four days. There is a lot of traffic on the roads.
"I returned home when our village was occupied by Russian troops and took out the rest of the dogs and puppies, 20 dogs and 10 puppies. "Now we are 300km away from the hostilities but I plan to take all my dogs to a safe place in Europe. "I love my dogs very much. I am ready to do a lot to save the lives of defenceless animals. I have strength and doing for this. "They are obedient and I am strong. I manage. Most importantly, we are all together and safe."
Olena is now in Vinnitsa in central Ukraine with the remaining dogs but claims they need money for food, medicine and fuel to continue their rescue mission. Olena said: "I am with dogs in Ukraine, the city of Vinnitsa, with my friend. We need funds for food, medicine for dogs and fuel for the car to continue on our way. "Thousands of people write to me. I don't even have time to read everything. "I try to let people know that I need help. Individual people help financially, the rest sympathise. "All American friends are generally silent - they do not want to help. "So far I have returned to Ukraine once. I need to do two or three more trips.
"I have never counted how much I spend on dogs, but I think that [£378] a week would be enough for me to feed them all. "It is impossible to count on medicines and assistance because this all happened spontaneously. Gasoline is very expensive now. "I need to raise money for the long haul and find families for my puppies." The married animal lover claims she will continue to rescue other dogs as soon as she gets her to safety, even forming groups across neighbouring countries to ensure rescued dogs find a safe long-term home. Olena said: "First I have to provide a safe place for my dogs in Europe then I will help other dogs from Ukraine. "We have already created groups and selected people to deliver animals from Poland and Romania throughout Europe, but they also need financial assistance for fuel. "It is a lot of work and I have very little energy now. Without my husband, I would not have coped with this situation."
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