Four Paws International is a group of volunteers and veterinarians who go into war-torn countries to tend to the animals left behind in war zones.
I heard one veterinarian being interviewed on CBC radio and it was so affecting. On the one hand, the story of rescuing trapped zoo animals in Syria spoke to the horrors of war. Most of the 40 or so zoo animals had died from the bombings in Mosul or had starved to death (or eaten each other). This had happened over the course of two months of fighting and bomb attacks.
When the volunteers went into the zoo, they did find two animals alive: one bear and one lion. This is the story of their rescue: Lula and Simba
Part of the wonder of humanity is that, even in the midst of brutality, there were neighbours around the zoo who had been feeding the animals as best they could – even though they themselves had little food to share.
The interviewer on the radio asked how neighbours, who could barely feed themselves, could think of the welfare of these animals. The veterinarian replied:
“Someone kind is kind to all.”
His comment reminded me of the German soldier who rescued my mother during World War Two. Although his country had invaded my mother’s, and in fact had taken over her whole house, Paul Linke, that German soldier, bestowed innumerable kindnesses on my mother’s family. He warned her father that his life was in danger, and he should leave. My grandfather did not want to abandon his wife and five children, so he stayed. That resulted in a knock on the door and his kidnapping in the middle of the night. My mother never saw her father alive again. But that same German soldier, helped my mother escape the Ukraine, and helped her make her way to Canada.
The Germans were supposed to be the enemy. Life, and war, are not simple. I choose to believe we are, as humans, kind and compassionate at heart. We are still evolving and learning better ways to resolve our differences.