After narrowly escaping his war-torn country, Ukraine’s most famous Instagram cat, Stepan, has arrived safely in France.
Not long ago, a Ukrainian cat named Stepan was enjoying the fruits of his social media fame.
Since being adopted as a one-month-old kitten, the rescued cat had gone viral on TikTok, earned more than 1 million Instagram followers, and was even named one of the world’s top “petfluencers,” according to The Washington Post.
But Stepan’s career crashed to a halt on February 24, when Russian troops invaded Ukraine. As bombs dropped on the cat’s apartment in Kharkiv, the now 13-year-old tabby cat’s owner, Anna, realized they needed to flee.
“On February 24, early in the morning, we were sleeping at home,” Anna wrote on her cat’s Instagram page, loveyoustepan. “At 5 a.m., some explosion was heard, and I didn’t even understand what it was.”
But as the bombing and gunfire grew louder, it became clear the war was drawing closer to home.
“After a while, after half an hour later, there were more explosions, the windows trembled,” Anna recalled in the heartbreaking post. “I jumped up and understood that something terrible was happening. We realized that the war had come to our house.”
After a terrifying week trapped in the war-torn city, Stepan and Anna finally escaped on a train heading out of the city. Twenty hours later, their train arrived in Lviv, from where Stepan and his owner traveled to join thousands of other Ukrainian refugees waiting to cross the border into Poland.
“At the border, we stood in line in a pedestrian crossing,” Anna wrote, sharing pictures of Stepan bundled up in her coat, peeking out of his carrier, and peering out the train window as they fled from the war.
Meanwhile, Stepan’s social media followers had grown increasingly worried. Anna and Stepan were usually prolific posters, but the cat’s social media feeds had gone suddenly dark–leaving the cat’s many fans to fear the worst.
After another 9-hour wait, Stepan and Anna finally made it to Poland, where they found another pleasant surprise waiting for them across the border.
After hearing about the star cat’s tragic turn as a war refugee, the World Influencers and Bloggers Association of Monaco (which had named Stepan of the world’s top “petfluencers” the year before) reached out to help. The organization has arranged for Stepan and his family to wait out the rest of the war in France.
But while the famous Ukrainian cat and his family are finally safe, millions of other people and animals haven’t been so lucky. “We worry very much about our relatives in Ukraine and will do the very best we can to help our country,” Anna posted.