"If death comes, until my last breath I will protect them."
A deserted town in Ukraine is housing a 40-year-old Indian doctor and his pet panther and leopard.
In a video shared online, Girikumar Patil spoke to VICE World News about how he has settled into a new routine in Donbas, Ukraine.
The war-torn country is a place of hostility but Patil gave his account of daily life since the Russian invasion.
However, given the fear and pain that thousands are feeling, Patil has no choice but to live in these circumstances.
That is because he has two gigantic big cats who he refers to as his “kids”.
He has a 20-month-old mix of male Amur leopard and female black jaguar called Yasha and a six-month-old black panther called Sabrina.
Every morning at 8 am, the doctor treks to neighbouring towns in order to buy five kilos of meat for his big cats.
As he arrives back, he settles into his bunker with the animals and lives out the day until the next morning.
Patil is the only one left behind in his own town but remains adamant that he is going nowhere without his “kids”.
In a harrowing and lonely video, Patil states:
“I’m living in Donbas, completely surrounded with Russians. So it’s very tough to go from here.
“Starting on the first day when the first bomb dropped, these cats were too scared, they’re scared.”
“Very horrible situation here, bombing in here.
“I went to my bunker. I’m sitting there with my cats, big cats, until morning 6 o’clock.”
The Indian doctor then pledges himself to his pets and states he won’t try and escape without them:
“If the Indian government helps me to take them home, not [just] me but with my cats, with my kids, with my children, take me home.”
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Since watching his favourite actor, Chiranjeevi, play with leopards in a film, Patil has been fascinated with cats.
Patil himself has played small parts in Telugu language soaps and local films in Ukraine.
Patil bought the panther and jaguar from Kyiv zoo, spending £26,460.
The zoo sold the animals on the premise that Patil would house them privately and correctly.
With most of his earnings spent on Yasha and Sabrina, he has spent four times more since the war broke out.
But with no hospital to work at, he has turned to his YouTube channel to raise funds for himself.
The orthopaedic doctor has over 100,000 subscribers and documents his isolated movements with the cats.
However, he has faced intermittent power cuts and internet breakdowns but is holding onto hope for a swift rescue:
“I am the only Indian out here, and at night I am alone in the neighbourhood. Most of my neighbours have moved to nearby villages. I am going to hold out.”
He later adds: “If bombing [comes], if death comes, until my last breath I will protect them.”
According to the federal aviation minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia, India has evacuated over 15,000 students via 76 flights so far.
Hopefully, the Indian doctor and his big cats continue to survive and manage to flee from the terror.