Marina Bayeva ’06

Helping Displaced Animals in Her Native Country, Ukraine
Photos Courtesy of Marina Bayeva ’06

When Marina Bayeva ’06 was a child living in the city of Khmelnytskyi in Western Ukraine, there was no room for pets in the one-room flat she shared with her parents and her sister. But she harnessed her love for animals by collecting leftover food from her school cafeteria and feeding it to the stray cats that populated her neighborhood.

An injured cat receives comfort at a shelter run by Iryna Dobrolubova
An injured cat receives comfort at a shelter run by Iryna Dobrolubova. The shelter houses around 500 cats rescued from Kyiv and the suburbs of Bucha and Irpin.

Bayeva remained in the United States after she graduated from Vassar—she’s currently an advanced fellow in hospital-based psychotherapy at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA. But her parents live in Ukraine, in the city of Dnipro, and she’s still doing all she can for the animals of Ukraine. Since the invasion began, Bayeva has been collecting money for shelters there and coordinating rescue efforts for animals that are being evacuated from the country and for those that have remained behind. “There was a real feeling of helplessness when the war started,” Bayeva said, “but my mom was involved in animal rescue efforts, and people started donating money and supplies to help her.”

Two people from the Ray of Hope shelter holding a growing puppy.
The Ray of Hope Shelter in Dnipro offers a place to land for many animals, including this growing pup. The shelter houses about 50 cats and 40 dogs.

Bayeva’s initial efforts yielded about $2,000, and she has since leveraged some grants from animal rescue organizations and raised other funds totaling about $38,000. “The need to help animals, especially in Eastern Ukraine, is really dire,” she said. “Much of the area has been heavily shelled, and many of the shelters there have little or no food or water. Dnipro is still relatively safe, but the shelters there that are accepting animals are really stretched, and some of the animals are being sent to other countries.” 

Bayeva has solicited help from two former Vassar friends, Sarah Hunt ’06 and Meena Yust ’05. Hunt connected her to the Pet Professional Guild, an organization of professional animal trainers whose members are spreading the word about the rescue efforts in Ukraine.

A network of people involved in the rescue effort in Ukraine have formed partnerships with those elsewhere in Europe, shipping animals to France, Poland, and the Czech Republic. “There’s something comforting about doing something concrete,” Bayeva said. “When I heard that 11 cats had arrived safely in the Czech Republic and were receiving medical care, that was a wonderful feeling. It’s just good to be knowing I’m helping, even a little.”

Bayeva says she would welcome involvement from members of the Vassar community who are interested in supporting the animals of Ukraine. “Anyone with ideas, connections, or resources that could help may contact me,” she said. Her email address is

May 17, 2022