A rehabilitation centre for wild birds «Free Wings», located in the village of Kozhychi, 12 km from Lviv, has been operating for more than 18 years. At the moment there are a total of 236 birds of more than 45 species, including those included in the Red Book of Ukraine (official list of local endangered species). All of them freely inhabit the territory among numerous ponds and recreation areas.
Here we are met by the founder of the rehabilitation center Victor Shelvinsky:
«I set up a rehabilitation centre right in the yard of my house. Later, I bought more surrounding plots and now I live among 236 birds. These are storks, geese, ducks, and many more. We will see all of them when we enter the territory.»
Previously, feathered patients were transferred here for rehabilitation mostly by employees of nature reserves near Lviv, but in recent years, gradually more concerned people from all over Ukraine started calling the centre. An owl recently became one of the patients. It was hit by a car, as a result of which the bird was hit hard and blinded in one eye. Currently, the owl is undergoing rehabilitation, but won’t return to the wild ever, as it will be simply unable to hunt for food with such a defect.
«Birds have exactly the same tempers as humans: there may be good or evil, malleable, those who want to be loved, there are those who want to be lonely and calm. The owl we see is rather an exception. Such a quiet, calm, silent bird, which, due to the injuries she had, trusts the person so much that it can sit so calmly in her arms. In general, everything in our center takes place in trust and love,» – Viktor Shevlinsky continues.
Most birds will still be able to return to the wild after rehabilitation in the «Free Wings». Lviv Now journalists were lucky to see how for the first time after a week of treatment, a rook rose into the open sky, after restoring all its original functions and becoming completely ready to fly into independent life. Soon, he will return here again, Victor is convinced. During their stay in the rehabilitation center, the birds adapt and get used to living here.
«We release birds that can already cope with their life. But let’s say 30% stay here for a while. During the rehabilitation period, they get used to a different principle of existence, when food is delivered directly under the nose, it’s warm, and there is a place where they can hide. Therefore, when we release them, they do not fly away for another 3-4 months. This acquired reflex keeps them here. But sooner or later, everyone matures to a state of independence and flies away.»
Some birds will accompany you during the walk, for instance, the peacocks. They walk freely in the yard. But be careful, some birds are so human-oriented that they want to draw attention to themselves by any means. Therefore, it is better not to approach the aviary with the raven named Tazik, because sometimes it can even pinch.
In addition to wild birds including parrots, there are also dogs, mice, gerbils,and blue squirrels.
Monthly, it costs from 10,000 to 12,000 UAH to feed such a farm. In addition, funds for the treatment of newly arrived patients are constantly needed. To maintain such a household, Victor works on five jobs, because the centre exists only on charitable donations and his personal funds. To attract more tourists, the man set up a guest house in the center, which can accommodate up to 7 people, and a gazebo.
You can book a tour by visiting the Facebook page of the Free Wings Rehabilitation Centre. There are also details and information on how to support this case.
«All the emotions I get here are so accumulated and give strength and recovery that they are hard to put into words. For example, the same bird in the morning and evening can inspire a completely different emotional state. That’s why I have a new day here every day», – he adds.
How to get there? To get here, we leave Shevchenka Street in Lviv in the direction of Ryasne-Ruske, go in a straight line, without turning anywhere up to the village of Kozhychi. Here, among the private sector, on the street. Kozhychi, 2 the Free Wings Rehabilitation Centre is located.
Photo by the author
Translated by Vitalii Holich
You can read a Ukrainian language version of this story here.