Photos: Ukrainians fleeing war 'can't leave' pets behind

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A man seen with his dogs during the evacuation. Thousands of residents of Irpin have to abandon their homes and evacuate as Russian troops are bombing a peaceful city. (Photo by Mykhaylo Palinchak/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Mounds of abandoned clothes and other personal items lie strewn along corridors leading out of Ukraine. The farther people carry their things, the harder it is, so they leave them behind, said Ludmila Sokol, a gym teacher fleeing Zaporizhzhia in the south.

But their pets, they keep alongside them.

Everywhere amid the exodus of more than 2.3 million people fleeing Russia’s invasion are the pets people could not leave behind: birds, rabbits, hamsters, cats and dogs.

People fleeing the outskirts of Kyiv crowded together under a destroyed bridge, carrying little luggage and abandoning their vehicles on the road. But their pets remained with them.

One woman ferried her dog across an improvised bridge over the Irpin River amid the evacuation. Another at a train station in Poland nuzzled her orange cat, nose to nose.

A young girl wrapped in an aluminized blanket hugged her two Chihuahuas close as she made the crossing into Medyka, Poland.

A woman who made it to Romania cuddled her small dog as they sat in a hotel ballroom converted into a refugee shelter.

One woman said she felt an obligation to keep not only her family but her pets safe.

RELATED: Russia-Ukraine war: Major cities bombarded as civilians try to flee

Victoria Trofimenko, 42, had originally planned never to leave Kyiv, she said in an interview with The Associated Press by Zoom days after the war started.

But as the missiles and explosives rained down she thought about her duty to protect her 18-year-old daughter, 69-year-old mother — and her dog, Akira, and cat, Galileo.

She bought train tickets to head west, ending up in Prague. She said she first arrived in Hungary, though, and was grateful to have Akira by her side for protection.

"I can’t leave dogs or cats. I have to take responsibility," she said.