Eugene Kibets used to promote concerts, but now he starts a cat shelter

Viktoriia Demchuk

Eugene Kibets is a founder of Happy Music Group agency and a concert promoter who has brought about 500 concerts to his credit over 12 years. There are Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Balthazar, IAMX, Garbage, Nothing But Thieves, Fink, Ghostpoet and others among them.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion, Eugene has put his past activities on hold and prioritized the animal protection activities. While rescuing animals from the de-occupied cities of Kyiv region, Zhenia realized that many of them would not survive on the street. That’s why he plans to open the Cats On Mars shelter by the end of October.

Translator: Inna Khrystych

Zhenia has been organizing concerts since 2010, and in general he has been in this business since 2006. During this time, he has arranged more than 500 musical events. The last concert organized by his team was supposed to take place on February 22 but was rescheduled to the 26th. 

To some extent, the pandemic has already prepared people for a few events, so the stroke on the concert activity appeared to be weaker. Canceling or rescheduling 5-7 concerts is not the same as 50 ones being disrupted, as it was in the active pandemic times. If the COVID epidemic at a certain period simply “adjusted measures”, then the escalation of the war completely stopped the concert activity for a long time as Zhenia states.

The Involvement Searches

The full-scale invasion awakened a desire to contribute to society. The overcrowded volunteer staff, the full enrolment in most organizations helping in one way or another suggested a bit of helplessness.

“For the first few days, I had no single idea what to do. I really wanted to be useful, to use my organizational skills somewhere. I saw the photo of my friend Pasha Li in his battalion and asked him if there would be a place for me as well. He replied that they were full, but he would ask. Our last conversation had taken place two days before they were fired upon.
Many friends joined the drone army, some joined the Red Cross, and I was still looking for one. About a week ago, I came across an ad looking for volunteers to rescue animals. I thought: well, let it be animals. I had an experience as we often looked after them with my mother.”

The First Trips by Requests

At first, Eugene, his girlfriend Maryna and the volunteer team were going around Kyiv, later on all around the Kyiv region and rescuing animals. The first trip took place on March 8. The volunteers had rescued more than a hundred of pets that month. In early April, Bucha was opened. 

Zhenia remembers it took the volunteers 5 hours to get to the de-occupied town in 16 cars for 40 km. Since they had to come back to Kyiv before the curfew, there was actually little time for the rescue. There was no communication in the city, so the communication was carried out through walkie-talkies. Once in a yard the volunteers saved 9 bichons, a shepherd dog, 3 cats and 4 more from another entrance of the same building along with the chinchilla who is living at Eugene’s place now.

“When I first saw the way they were being rescued, I thought it was photoshop – we made a hole in the wall near the door, and the pets were coming out. People became a really great discovery for me during the war.
I have never seen such concentration and dedication in the peacetime. Sometimes you come to a rescue request, and you are told that a pet has already been rescued by people’s own efforts: ladders, and ropes appeared in a magical way.”

The Poor Condition of Shelters

Despite the adoption of laws and volunteer initiatives, the protection and safety of animals is an open issue in Ukraine. Training hunting centers, exploitation for photo service and entertainment, the issue of animal homelessness — all this has not disappeared at all.

As Zhenia says, the topic of animal protection is rarely raised due to the disinterest of the authorities. Moreover, there is some competition between the shelters themselves, as their number increases and the donators are still the same. The ineffectiveness of the legislation is also essential because there are certain prohibitions, but no one takes a real responsibility for their violation.

“What surprised me abroad is the absence of stray animals. I had never noticed that before but then did some research. For example, when you see a stray dog in Poland, you must call the police, and they have to bring the pet to a shelter. The abusive attitude is punished severely, the pets are taken away.”

Before the military escalation, the animal shelters in Ukraine were in an unsatisfactory condition. During the full-scale war, the situation became even worse as the number of donators did not just reduce but disappeared. 

It is even worse with the shelters which were in the territories under occupation. The ones in Borodianka, Fasova and Hostomel were broken, and some animals simply died from the lack of food and water. According to the UAnimals organization, the vast majority of the inhabitants of the animal shelter located in Borodianka died during the occupation by the Russian military: only 150 of the 485 animals stayed alive.

An Animal Shelter of their own

When they got such an experience and realized that many pets had run away and would have to survive the wintertime on their own completely unadapted, Eugene and Maryna got the idea of starting their own animal shelter. That was the reason for the animal rights activists’ visits to animal shelters in European countries.

“We have visited five shelters. All of them are different and private. I was mostly impressed by the shelter in Berlin. Nearly 300 people work over there. The territory is so vast that Renault allocates a car for easy and comfortable moving. There are zoning, sanitary zones, and interestingly, none of them has got a penny from the state, everything is provided by the local patrons.”

Today, the couple has already got a plan for building a shelter with a cat on the doorstep, a vision of dividing zones, the name Cats on Mars and almost a clear implementation plan.

“It’s not even a question of desire – it’s a need, because the animals that were once pets have remained on the street. They will not survive the winter, they have neither the ability nor the skills to survive in nature. That’s why, I really want to open it in October, at least to save someone else by the end of November.”

You can support Cats on Mars shelter here: