Manuela Wroblewski ends each day with throbbing feet and a weary soul after hours of hauling huge sacks of food through the streets of Avsallar, Turkey where she feeds hundreds of homeless cats and dogs. Looking every bit the part of Cinderella, this former German television actress who now devotes her life to street animals knows very well what it’s liked to be kicked and cursed and scorned for her compassion in a community that is largely violent toward companion animals. But one day last week, when a family of kittens were put in harm’s way, this Cinderella cinched up her boots and got ready to kick some derriere.
Never Underestimate the Power of a Passionate Heart
Manuela had been feeding cats at a neighboring apartment complex when a man emerged from the building with fire in his eyes. He hollered at her for minutes and threatened that if he ever saw her again, the cats would all die. Manuela and the nearby shop keepers who heard the rant were both shaken. After all, the shop keepers had a mother cat and kittens of their own and Manuela has seen too many instances of people making good on their threats against animals here.
The next day, Manuela returned with some trepidation and was met by one of the shop keepers who had news for her.
“They told me that the same nasty man who screamed at me yesterday said that he would bring all the cats into the mountains today.” Manuela explains.
She Would Return to Rescue Them
Manuela made plans to retrieve a mother cat and six kittens later in the day and to try and reason with the man to safeguard the shop keepers cats as well. The shop keepers actually live in their tiny store, taking shifts sleeping in the back room. They are not able to bring their cats indoors or no one would shop there anymore and they would lose their livelihood. Both were scared and Manuela would have to try to do something about it.
After a few hours of walking the streets and feeding the dogs and cats who turn to her for nourishment, Manuela went to her apartment and set up the only available space, her bathroom, as a temporary sanctuary for the cats until she could bring them to her veterinarian for boarding. After laying out a blanket and some food and water in her bathroom, Manuela returned to the apartment complex and was immediately frozen with fear.
“The mom ran towards me and seemed very nervous,” Manuela said of that moment when she could feel the storm clouds gathering. “I put her into my soft bag carrier and quickly brought her to my apartment. Then I went straight back and walked with the market woman to the spot in that apartment complex where all the kittens had been. They were gone!”
A Day for Justice
Manuela and the woman from the shop raced back to the market so that the woman’s son could call the gardener of the apartment complex to ask him where the six kittens were. The boy placed a call and asked the man to come by. When the gardener arrived, the boy asked him about the kittens whereabouts but the man pretended to know nothing about it.
“I then asked the boy to translate that I will call the police and I mean it quite seriously,” Manuela said with flashing eyes that broke through their language barrier. “When the gardener heard the word ‘police’ he got nervous and said that he was sent by the nasty man to bring the six kittens away. I did not believe him but I asked the market boy to tell him that he must immediately tell us where they are.”
Head down and tail between his legs, the gardener climbed back on his bike and the market boy boarded behind him. They zoomed off together to the spot where he had taken the kittens.
“After 20 minutes they returned with all six kittens,” Manuela said with such relief. “I felt so shocked when I learned that this gardener had dumped all these helpless little ones two miles away in a pile of old car tires where they were trapped and where they would never be able to escape. Tonight it rains hard here. We got them just in time.”
Warm and Safe Now
There are many days when Manuela is too late, when she sees things that we dare not speak – violence against cats and dogs whose biggest crime was their innocent search for food. But today, we celebrate this special victory for one mother cat and six tiny kittens who wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance of survival without the power of one woman who would rather die on her feet than live on her knees.
The Harmony Fund is celebrating it’s one year anniversary with Manuela. More photos and details can be found here.