A UKRAINIAN refugee living in Leigh is preparing to head back to the warzone to save animals at risk...and bring them back to south Essex.

Natalya Sandalovych, 38, moved to Leigh with her pet pooch Taylor for the last 18 months after fleeing Ukraine when it was invaded by Russia.

Now, Natalya and Taylor are preparing to travel back to Ukraine and work alongside a charity to rescue animals in need and transport them to safety.

Since moving to Leigh, Natayla has been working at Sara’s Tea Garden and has become “like family” to owner Sara Welton.

Sara has launched a £1,000 fundraising campaign to support Natalya on her journey and is also taking in donations of pet food, blankets, bedding and leads.

“She is amazing, I am so proud of her, this fundraiser is like a thank you from me to them.

“We all know what is happening in Ukraine, but we don’t realise the impact. She shows me daily pictures of what is happening in the war-torn country.

“There are constantly things happening and many people are fleeing and having to leave their dogs. There are so many stray animals.

“If there is anything we can do, we should, we have no idea how to endure what they are doing.”

Natalya will leave on April 28 and spend a month in Ukraine where she will work with charity International Fund For Animal Welfare and rescue animals – with some travelling back to the UK to live with the volunteers. Sara has thanked people for their donations adding that the “response so far has been tremendous”.

She said: “We are trying to give her anything she can take out with her and any sort of supplies, bedding, leads and one of the vets has donated food,” she added.

“She will be going to Poland and then driving through to Ukraine.

“We did some research on charities we can donate to and decided on the International Fund for Animal Welfare, who have helped 480,000 pets and animals in the country, so the GoFundMe money will be partially going to them.”

You can donate to the fundraiser at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/df9b9v-ukraine-animal-support