To Defenders of Freedom

After months in Russian captivity, the border guard Alina returned to duty with a new four-legged partner

The border guard dog handler Alina Panina was released from Russian captivity on October 17, 2022. The woman shared the memories of her four-legged helpers: Russians took her dogs away and never gave them back. The State Border Service of Ukraine told her story.

Alina met the morning of the full-scale Russian invasion in the Mariupol Commercial Sea Port. She inspected sea vessels with her dog Sonia there. Then there was the defense of the Azovmash plant, a week under constant shelling at Azovstal.

Alina and two of her service dogs, Sonia and Jesse, fell into the hands of the enemy. After five months in Russian captivity, the border guard returned to Ukraine without her service dogs. Russian occupiers never gave them back to her. 

Photo: the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

After a long rehabilitation process, Alina Panina returned to Volyn, her home region, and continued her service on the Ukrainian-Polish border. She is looking forward to the return of her husband, a border guard who is still in Russian captivity.

Alina misses her four-legged friends and believes she will meet them one day. Meanwhile, the border guard often looks at archival photos and videos of Sonia and Jesse and tries to get them back by all means.

To support Alina, her friends gifted her Chelsea, a spaniel that looks a lot like Sonia. Now they constantly train together and learn to work in tandem.

Photo: the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

In honor of Alina, Ukrainian artists have created a mural painting depicting a woman with a dog in her hometown Novovolynsk, the Volyn region. Alina has found out about it by accident from her friends. By a coincidence, the opening of the mural took place on the day of Panina’s release from captivity, though none of the organizers knew that the border guard would return to home that day.

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