Brit’s incredible escape from Ukraine after refusing to leave beloved dog behind



A Brit who refused to leave war-torn Ukraine without his dog has finally returned to the UK.

Gavin Guest, 31, is now safely back at his family home near Sutton, Surrey, after crossing the ‘chaotic’ Romanian border.

The teacher spent weeks trying to organize a pet waiver that would allow him to take his rescue dog Eli back to England.

However, it did not come through before the Russian invasion last month and he was forced to flee the country on foot.

He eventually crossed into Romania with the help of kind-hearted Ukrainians who begged border guards to let him through.

Gavin told The Mirror: “If I didn’t have Eli I would have left when the UK announced all British nationals should come home last month.

“But it was never in question that I would have left the country without him.







Gavin Guest refused to leave Ukraine without his beloved dog Eli
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Gavin Guest)

“I rescued him a year ago, he was a dog in need and I was a person in need. We had just come out of Covid and he was good for my mental health.

“We could have left Ukraine a few weeks ago and this problem wouldn’t have happened. But I was determined to get Eli out of the country and I’m very happy that I made the right decision.

“It was all worthwhile and if I had to do it again I would.”

The special educational needs co-ordinator had yet to complete the paperwork needed for him to take Eli to England when the Foreign Office told Brits to get out of Ukraine on February 12.







Gavin is now back with his parents in the UK
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Image:

Gavin Guest)

He was not able to travel to the UK with Eli unless he had the waiver, which takes three months to receive.

He and a colleague took their dogs out of Kyiv and traveled to the western city of Lviv on February 15.

However, when the capital came under attack the pair, who work at the British International School in Ukraine, decided to travel to the Romanian border to escape.

Gavin, originally from Croydon, said: “We heard the Romanian border was more favorable with pets. On February 24, a colleague and I drove 500km with our dogs to the border.







Gavin described his escape from the Ukraine as ‘physically and mentally draining’
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Gavin Guest)







He had not completed the paperwork needed to take Eli back to the UK by the time Russia invaded
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Image:

Gavin Guest)

“There was a 12km queue of cars when we got there. We got out and walked to the border with our two dogs and all of the possessions we could carry.

“We tried to get through the border but the Ukrainian border guards told us no men were allowed to pass.

“There were women and children being squashed against the metal border gate. It was snowing, cold and chaotic. It was pandemonium.

“There must have been 5,000 people there and there were lots of screaming and pushing to get across. The guards were armed and shouting back.

“They were saying Romania was being bombed and Romania didn’t want people to enter. The misinformation caused more chaos in the crowd.”







Gavin rescued Eli a year ago and said the pooch was good for his mental health
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Image:

Gavin Guest)







Gavin has vowed to return to Kyiv and refuses to let Vladimir Putin ruin his plans
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Gavin Guest)

Gavin is not angry with the guards and instead thinks it was a system failure as there was no queue for women, children and foreign nationals.

The British consulate in Romania sent a car out to collect Gavin, his colleague and their pets from the border in Terebleche, Ukraine.

However the embassy team was prevented from reaching them by the Ukrainian border guards, Gavin said.

“They said a Romanian guard let them through into the ‘dead zone’, however the Ukrainian guards wouldn’t let them through,” Gavin said.

“The consulate said they were only 30 meters away from us. I couldn’t understand it.”







Refugees have braved the cold while fleeing Ukraine
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REUTERS)

The pair then left and waited it out for a couple of days before attempting to cross again.

When they returned on February 26 they discovered the rules were even stricter than before, with older boys now restricted from leaving.

Gavin said: “There was one woman in front of me who had a 13-year-old son and a guard told her he could not go through as he looked too old.”

Eventually Gavin managed to explain to a man at the border that he and his dog had been waiting to leave for three days.







Gavin reached Romania thanks to selfless Ukrainians who begged border guards to let him through
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Image:

Gavin Guest)

“He spoke English and I told him ‘I’ve been here for three days with two dogs, I can’t keep coming to the front. They are rescue dogs and people are trampling on them’,” Gavin said.

“He said no men could leave and I said I understood. I asked him to let us know when it was our turn and he smiled and put his thumb up.”

Shortly afterwards, Gavin was called to the front of the queue.

He said: “Some of the Ukrainian people in front of me said ‘come, come’. They had heard about our plight and had been speaking (to the guards) on our behalf.







One million refugees have fled Ukraine in the week since Russia invaded
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Bruno Thevenin/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock)

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“They pleaded with them to let us through. The guards then opened a road block barrier and said ‘go now’.

“I walked through and then looked around to see the faces that had helped us. They were smiling and some people were clapping. It was so nice but I felt so sad and guilty.”

Gavin stayed in Romania and finally completed the paperwork to take two-year-old Eli – a mixed West Siberian Laika – back to the UK.

He then boarded an overnight train for Vienna, arriving on March 2, with a friend driving him and his colleague back to the UK.

They finally arrived home on March 3.

Describing the ordeal, Gavin said: “It has been mentally and physically draining.

“What I saw at the border – the crying women and children – is something I never want to go through again.”

Despite everything, Gavin plans to return to Kyiv in the future although he will leave Eli in the UK with his parents.

“I’m damned sure I’m going back, that’s my home,” he said.

“I won’t allow Putin to determine my future in terms of not going back to a city where the people are so amazing.”

He praised the resilience and kindness of the Ukrainian people and pledged to donate his fee from the Mirror to help the needy in Ukraine.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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