A Puppy Mill’s Dog and a Ukrainian Family: The Story of a Miraculous Encounter in NYC

By 「ニューヨーク直行便」安部かすみ

Alla welcomes a rescue dog.(c)Kasumi Abe

A story of a miraculous encounter between a mother dog who has given birth to many puppies for a pet business and a Ukrainian family who fled to the U.S.

(see part 1)

On the day in September, Lily (the mother dog) was rescued from a puppy mill, the Ukraine family who lives in New York raised their hand to welcome Lily, whose are abused both physically and mentally at a puppy mill.

A month later, I visited them.

Lily’s new life has already begun, and she has completely changed how she looks. She looks adorable now. And her new name is a lovely Ukrainian girl’s name, Stefania (Стефания)!

Stefania just has finished dental treatment and will be spayed when the time comes. The reason why she can’t take it now is… because she is pregnant!

A volunteer took her to a spay surgery and found out she is pregnant. Dogs are multiple births, but she has only one new puppy in her belly. It is clear that she was impregnated at a puppy mill, but she must have been abandoned because she could not give birth to healthy puppies anymore.

Stefania’s new mom is Alla Lysytska, who fled Kyiv, Ukraine, to New York with her familny after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Alla used to work as a floral designer in Kyiv. Since February, she has lived in New York with her husband, Dimitry Lysytsky, who runs an IT business across Europe and the U.S., their 21-year-old daughter Maiya Lysytska, who is studying game design at the art college, and 14-year-old son Mattew Lysytsky. 

“Puppy already moves!” Alla smiled as if it were her own child. “Can’t wait to meet the puppy.” I gently touched Stefania’s belly while she was in Alla’s arms.

Now Stefania has received a lot of love from the Lysytska family and looks adorable. However, her timidity doesn’t seem to disappear readily. As soon as the photo shoot finished, she immediately returned to the dark room.

I asked Alla about the origin of the name Stefania. “It’s a Ukrainian girl’s name. Moreover, it’s also from a song that was a big hit this year,” she said.

The song of “STEFANIA” is by the Ukrainian rap group Kalush Orchestra. This song is dedicated to the Ukrainian mother. Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Music Festival, Europe’s largest music festival held in Turin, Italy this year and this song has been making it a big hit across the world.

STEFANIA” by the Ukrainian rap group Kalush Orchestra

"What a coincidence there's a line in the lyrics that says 'Mother Stefania' in this song, even though nobody know she was pregnant when I named her Stefania!

Alla continued with a smile. “She’s my second daughter now, so the puppy will be my first grandchild.”

The Ukrainian family saved Stefania and Vice versa.

Four years ago, at the age of 17, Alla’s daughter, Maiya moved to New York alone to study abroad and this February the rest of the family united in New York.

Alla’s husband, Dimitry’s parents fled to Austria, but Alla’s 63-year-old father still remains with his family and relatives in Kyiv.

“Our life changed completely in February. We communicate via Viber every day in Kyiv to confirm their safety, but the situation in Kyiv changes every day and nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. I am always worried about my family and friends who remain in the country.”

Her father hasn’t left Kyiv because of his age and he had a stroke last year. They have escaped to a shelter underneath the building whenever it’s necessary. An attack on a power plant by Russian forces continues to cause mass power outages and shortages of essentials such as heating, water, and supplies, and their difficult life situation continues.

“We face struggles because we can only help my family financially. My father says he is doing ok, nevertheless, he and his family are under a tremendous amount of stress. Actually, no one in Ukraine is ok. In such a situation, people who still remain in the country are very brave and strong.”

It’s painful to see news such as “where were the bombs dropped or how many people died…”. The hard days for her continue. In addition, living in a foreign country must be stressful for her, for sure.

“I am often nervous. My mind is occupied with worries about my country, my family, my children, and the future… My heart beats loudly and my thoughts are unsettled sometimes. However, the war has just begun this year. I try my utmost to keep cool and try to live every day positively.”

During those difficulties, she happened to meet Stefania at a BBQ party hosted by the owner of the Airbnb where they reside.

“The moment I saw Stefania at the night, I thought ‘my dog!'”. Alla fell in love with Stefania instantly.

In Ukraine, they lived on their own property and were surrounded by pets in their life. Maiya explains that there are street cats often roam in Ukraine, and the family has raised those rescued cats and dogs that were adopted from puppy mills and animal shelters. They had also hamsters and chinchillas.

“My children grew up sleeping with their pets in the same bed.”

The family arrived in the U.S. a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. At that time, there were still commercial flights from Kyiv, so they left Kyiv and fled to New York via Austria. The dog in Kyiv died of cancer a few years ago, but they still had one rescue cat at that time. However, Alla hadn't had many choices and must give up that cat because she never lived in a rental property and was unsure of what their new life would be like in New York. This cat is now being cared for by her relatives who remain in Kyiv.

When I asked how she felt about being able to escape to the U.S., Alla quietly replied:

“I feel lucky. we have a house to live in like this. No air raids or explosions. We made new Ukrainian friends, and we have Stefania. Going to museums with my children and taking Stefania for a walk in the park, I embrace that kind of piece of happiness.”

Alla recalls her first impression of Stefania when she met her for the first time. Stefania was hiding in the dark corner under the bench.

“She seemed always frightened and was under a lot of stress. She didn’t want to interact with anyone. She just kept crouching in the same place and wouldn’t eat anything.”

The situation remained unchanged for more than a week.

“She didn’t want to move at all so I took her out for a walk. I said to her, ‘Don’t worry, it’s OK.’ She looked at me with a curious look, and then it was like, “Really?’ and ‘Is my life going to be like this?’. Her tail moved. That’s the time I felt like she has opened up to us for the first time!”

From that day on, Alla and Stefania have been sleeping together in the same bed.

“Now Stefania herself comes up to us and looks with eyes like ‘give me a snack’. She also likes to interact a bit with other people and dogs.”

About Stefania’s personality, “she’s like an angel. she’s a sweet girl, quiet, positive, and full of love.”, Alla described so.

Despite the days being unsettling as Alla’s worries never end, she doesn’t forget her hopes.

“No matter how far apart we are, being together with my family is the most important thing for me. The little happiness is always in my heart.”

Stefania just joined the “family”.

If the life, forced to breed in puppy mills is Chapter 1, the new life with the Lysytska family is Chapter 2. Stefania’s new chapter just has begun.


A few weeks later from the interview, in spite of we are thrilled to welcome a puppy to this world, sadly Stefania miscarried when she was about to give birth. She has since been sterilized and is doing well.

Stefania is an exception because only a small percentage of puppy mill dogs are rescued. The reality is that at puppy mills, the dogs that are unable to mass produce healthy puppies have been killed.

During the holiday season, pet stores are busy displaying cute puppies and kittens as “commodities” and some people may want to buy it as Christmas gifts or welcome them as new family members. I hope that the dogs at the puppy mills such as Stefania and what’s the background of the pet business will be in mind.

Related article

This is the English-translated version of the Original Japanese language. The original Japanese version of Yahoo! Japan news was written by Kasumi Abe.

  • Feel free to share the link with anyone who’s interested in pets. Drop me a line if anyone could correct any grammar mistakes (since I’m not a native English speaker). I would appreciate it if you could.Thank you for visiting my page and your support! (with LOVE from Kasumi)


© 安部かすみ