This Indian doctor is enduring the conflict in Ukraine, refusing to abandon his beloved large cats, which he purchased from a zoo in Kiyv, and declaring that he would rather die from Russian bullets.
Girikumar Patil has been locked up in his basement with his cats, a black panther and a jaguar, for more than a week.
He told the press that he will not leave his house without his cats. He has resided in Severodonetsk, a tiny town in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas area, for almost six years.
“My big cats have been spending nights in the basement with me. There has been a lot of bombing happening around us. The cats are scared. They are eating less. I can’t leave them,” Patil, 40, told the BBC.
“This is the second war I am living through. But this is scarier.”
Patil previously stated that he lived in Luhansk, where Russian-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian army since 2014.
His home and an Indian restaurant he founded in the vicinity were damaged during the conflict, he said, adding that, “Now I am stuck in a war zone. This time I am really worried. My parents have been calling me and asking me to come home, but I can’t leave the animals.”
He says he will not return to India without his pets. He also says he is the only Indian living in this area surrounded by pro-Russian rebels.
Mr Patil lives in Severodonetsk in a six-room, two-story home with a little animal enclosure. He stated that he spends the majority of his money on his pets – he also has three dogs – and attempts to gather more funds through his YouTube channels, where he publishes footage of his two huge cats to an audience of 85,000 members.
“I have always been fascinated with big cats since watching my favourite southern Indian film star, Chiranjeevi, in a film with leopards,” he said.