When a lost refugee cat washed up on the shores of a Greek island, it took the power of many caring volunteers and the reach of social media to help reunite him with the Iraqi mother and five kids who were forced to leave him behind on their long journey to Norway.
The saga began when a bedraggled white cat landed on the north shore of Lesbos Island towards Skala Sykamenia, Greece in November. He was about 3 years old and came on a rubber boat with a family of refugees from Mosul, Iraq. When they landed on the Greek island shore, he slipped away out of fright–a perfectly understandable reaction amid the difficult journey. Sailing to a new country and beginning a new life would be frightening and stressful for a human, but for a cat who doesn’t understand what’s happening, it would be a confusing ordeal indeed.
Caring volunteers on Lesbos named the cat Dias (pronounced Thias, the Greek word for the thunder god Zeus) and tried to reunite him with his family after searching for several hours–but the family had moved on.
It was obvious that the family cared deeply about the 3-year-old Turkish Van cat and likely had to pay to take him with them in the boat.
When found, the cat’s hair was sandy and matted, and he ran into trouble with the local cats, who bullied him away from food. Luckily, local people noticed and took him to a separate location so he could eat his food undisturbed.
Two months later, volunteers were still searching, knowing the family had to continue on their journey to northern Europe. Since then, Dias has had a vet check where he was given vaccines and microchipped. He stayed at a recharge house in Greece until his family could be located and he could be reunited with them.
Knowing that his family had probably continued onto Germany with most other Middle Eastern refugees, volunteers located a foster home for Dias in Berlin, where he arrived on Jan. 4. Volunteers noted that he was sleeping a lot, but that when he was awake, he was very talkative.
The tremendous dedication of the volunteers in caring for this cat paid off.
Dias’s family was located in Norway. His real name is Kunkush and he has been reunited with his Iraqi mom and the five kids who had missed him dearly since losing him in Greece. The family never gave up hope for a reunion.
Amy Shrodes, Edward St Thomas and Doug Kuntz were the volunteers most closely involved in the mission. The volunteers set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for travel expenses for the trip.
It was Shrodes who actually made the plane journey from Greece to Germany. She paid for the cat’s 600 Euro ticket from Lesbos, Greece to Berlin, Germany.
“Your money will be used toward his ticket, vet bills (around 100 euros) and the rest will be used by his foster mom to care for him,” the website read.
Later, Shrodes, after locating the family, placed the cat in a carrier and prepared to embark on the journey to the Far North.
“Touchdown, everyone, we made it,” said Shrodes in the video made by The Guardian newspaper detailing the memorable moment where Kunkush was reunited with his family. The video showed a mom and five kids waiting in breathless anticipation in the doorway of the home they’d found in Berlin.
“He was so quiet on the flight; he didn’t make a single peep.”
The moment of arrival shown in the video is an emotional one indeed; both Shrodes and the family are in tears. The cat’s human mom is loudly crying. “Kunkush my life!” she cries. “My darling!”
The children are also teary-eyed as they greet their furry feline friend.
On the website, the volunteers wrote:
“In a small way, his journey represents the plight of all who are seeking a better life. By offering him a place to stay and good food, he’s now able to sit by the fire and process what all he’s been through. He’s sleeping a lot and is very talkative when he’s awake. He didn’t go unnoticed, and will not be forgotten about. In the words of Rick Yancey ‘One, even the smallest, weakest, most insignificant one, matters.’ We can make a difference, one being at a time.”