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The Epic Tale of a Refugee Cat from Iraq That Got Lost in Greece and Reunited with His Family in Norway

In a miraculous turn of events, a refugee cat that got separated from his family while fleeing Iraq has not only survived the treacherous sea voyage to Lesbos, but has also been reunited with his owners, now living in Norway.

Kindness towards animals is not new to the people of Lesbos – we’d previously written about a café in the Greek island that opens its doors to stray dogs at night. So when volunteers found the poor, frightened cat all alone in November last year, they took him in, naming him Dias and deciding to care for him until his real owners could be found.

A few volunteers recalled that there had been a refugee family that was separated from their pet cat on reaching Lesbos a week earlier, so they began their hunt by putting up posters at reception centers all over the island. They also set up a Facebook page called ‘Reunite Dias’ to help spread the word. In the meantime, Dias was left in the care of volunteers Amy Shrodes and Ashley Anderson, who had been working with refugees on the island.

Photo: Reunite Dias/Facebook

“This family probably paid thousands to get a spot for themselves on this rubber boat – even infants required a fee,”  Anderson said, speaking to The Dodo. “They cared enough about this cat to bring [him] with them.”

“I know how much hope means to a person that has nothing else left,” Shrodes told Mashable. “I felt strongly that if this family took such a huge effort to bring him with them, they must consider him a part of their family. It wouldn’t be right not to give them a chance to at least know he’s okay, and even take him back if they’re in a place where they can.”

Photo: Reunite Dias/Facebook

So Shrodes took him to a foster home in Berlin and his new family agreed to wait for a year for his real family to be found, before officially adopting him. But the search came to an end quicker than anticipated and on February 14 volunteers posted on Facebook that the cat’s Iraqi family – a mother and five children – had been located. Although they wished to remain anonymous, it was revealed that they are currently living in Norway.

Photo: Reunite Dias/Facebook

“Friends of the feline population,” the post read, “we bring you exciting news this Valentine’s Day. On Friday, February 12, 2016, Dias’ family has been located in Norway. We’ve received confirmation in the form of photos as well as the family’s historical account. His real name is Kunkush and the cat is very responsive to the name.” The volunteers arranged for a Skype call, during which Kunkush kept looking behind the computer screen trying to find his family.

Photo: Reunite Dias/Facebook

A video of Kunkush traveling to Norway was later posted on Facebook, with the volunteers spending €600 for his care, pet passport, and flight ticket. They are now trying to raise money through a GoFundMe page to cover the costs. Kunkush was finally reunited with his family last Thursday, amidst many tears and smiles. The touching moment in which the mother cried out to the cat, “Kunkush, my life! My darling!” was recorded by The Guardian.

Photo: Reunite Dias/Facebook

The family revealed that they had fled Iraq last year along with their beloved pet Kunkush, making it all the way to the Mediterranean and crossing it on a crowded boat to Lesbos. They had carried Kunkush with them in a small basket, but as soon as they reached the shore, the frightened cat hopped out and ran away. The family and other volunteers searched for him for hours, but couldn’t find him anywhere. Eventually the family had to move on to a registration camp without Kunkush. Volunteers found the cat a week later, but by then the family had left and no one knew where they had gone.

Photo: Reunite Dias/Facebook

“More than 4,000 Facebook users have been supporting Kunkush’s campaign,” his Facebook page revealed. “Every share has helped us get one step closer to this happy ending. Thank you all for staying hopeful and being a part of this journey.”

 

“In a small way, his journey represents the plight of all who are seeking a better life,” wrote Michelle Nhin, another volunteer who helped set up the Facebook page. “We need each other. If it wasn’t for people taking notice of his vulnerable state and taking him in under their wings, he’d likely be fighting for food and struggling to thrive.”

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