I really don’t know much about any of Etela’s cats as all of them were already adults when I first laid eyes on them. They had been living at her cat and dog shelter for years, presumably, until it burned to the ground in March 2011. No one is sure what exactly started the fire, but as the electricity supply at Etela’s shelter had been cut off due to unpaid bills, she was probably using candles and it was suspected that the tragedy struck when a lit candle got knocked over and the open flame ignited some combustible materials in its vicinity. The major part of the house disappeared in a fierce blaze and Etela herself lost her life together with at least 30 of her cats. Several of the surviving kitties were attacked, killed and eaten by dogs on the site of the fire later on. None of the dogs died in the blaze.
Etela ran a shelter of about 350 dogs and 60 cats, supposedly, many of which had lived in the house with her and died a horrible death in the fire that ravaged the shelter, together with their owner. The shelter itself was quite far from any human settlements, surrounded by fields, in the middle of nowhere. Etela’s dogs must have been barking all through that horrendous, fatal night and the house in flames must have been making loud crackling and popping sounds. Thick smoke would have been rising high into the sky, but sadly no one saw anything, no one heard anything. Not until hours later did anyone know of the horror that all of the shelter tenants endured that fateful night at the beginning of spring, when unexpectedly and relentlessly, destiny struck a cruel blow.
When everything was over, the surviving animals had remained at what was left of a burned out home for almost a month, all by themselves. They had been provided with some food, but no one kept an eye on their well-being. Big dogs were attacking the small ones and some of them were attacking the cats, most of which found a safe place on the remains of the roof of the partially burned house. Whenever any of them were jumping down, compelled by hunger, they were putting their lives at risk. Days were passing by, then days turned into weeks and all of the kitties were still there, on top of that devastated place, desperately struggling to survive sufficiently long to see another dawn.
After their horrible ordeal, all of the cats that were strong enough, persistent enough and more than anything lucky enough to survive the tragedy, deserved to have the best life possible. Over several rescue missions, all of them were taken from that place of horror and found their new homes in two separate cat shelters, Jessica and Felix. The first time I went there, I couldn’t take more than five cats as I didn’t have enough carriers, but there was no chance I could have forgotten about the ones that remained at the fire site, so I finally ended up with more than 20 of Etela’s cats, all sick and thin, full of worms and fleas and with ear mange; many of them hadn’t been neutered or spayed yet. I took them some time to recover but most of them did, eventually and they’re now living very happy, fulfilled and carefree lives here with me. The oldest and the sickest didn’t make it, unfortunately, but at least they passed away peacefully, surrounded by love and care.
The fire at Etela’s shelter was the biggest tragedy that could be imagined and a big sensation at the time, but it seems that everyone has forgotten about it long ago. Most of Etela’s dogs have been rescued by some foreign organizations, as far as I know, but her cats were disregarded even then and much more now. No one seems to care about how they're doing, no one asks if they need something, as if they disappeared from the scene the minute they were picked up from that horribly damaged shelter. Moreover, the veil of oblivion has covered over all of the precious beings that lost their lives in the blaze, less than two years ago.
Most of Etela’s cats died with her but even the surviving ones are neither important nor interesting to anyone anymore. I’ll never understand... why cats are always marginalized so unfairly? For me each and every one of Etela’s kitties is a blessing, a tiny spark of light emerged out of the deepest darkness, a triumph of hope over indifference. In honor to all of those who are no longer with us, their story must be remembered.