Young adult escapes bombing in Ukraine and discovers newfound purpose by caring for dogs.

Imagine being 19 years old, having your apartment destroyed by Russian bombs, and leaving your family and friends in Kharkiv, Ukraine behind. Now, nine months later, you find yourself at The National Dog Show in Oaks, Pennsylvania, with a 3½-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Quentin by your side.

This is the whirlwind adventure Yuliia (July, pronounced Julie) Kalyta has experienced in 2022.

Under the Bright Lights

Living in a farmhouse in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania with her U.S. host Linda Apuzzo, a 30-year Chessie owner/breeder/handler, Kalyta found herself immersed in dog show dynamics at America’s only 2022 benched show on November 19th.

The National Dog Show, airing on NBC on November 24th, featured 1,847 entries, including 43 Chessies, the second largest breed entry behind Golden Retrievers.

Photo courtesy Steve Surfman Photography Kennel Club of Philadelphia
Kalyta and her American host, Linda Apuzzo, look over her performance in the Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed ring at The National Dog Show.

Surrounded by a large crowd, Kalyta initially felt uneasy but eventually settled in and had a great time. Her bond with Quentin was evident, and the pair showed like pros.

Kalyta mentioned that the 82-pound Chessie made her smile and responded well to commands, slowly building a strong relationship during her stay in America.

Escaping War and Tragedy

Apuzzo discovered the Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) program, allowing Ukrainian citizens to obtain “humanitarian parole” in the U.S., shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Seeing this as an opportunity to help someone escape the war zone, Apuzzo connected with Kalyta through Facebook Messenger, eventually welcoming her into her home in Pennsylvania.

Kalyta gets in some water time with two of her U.S. host Apuzzo’s Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Falcon and Trixie, at Codorus State Park in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
Photo courtesy Linda Apuzzo.
Kalyta gets in some water time with two of her U.S. host Apuzzo’s Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Falcon and Trixie, at Codorus State Park in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

Building a strong relationship, Apuzzo and Kalyta bonded over their love for the outdoors and photography.

Apuzzo organized fundraising events to support animals in Ukraine and ensure Kalyta’s smooth transition to life in America.

From Ukraine to The National Dog Show

While Kalyta holds Quentin, judge Dr. Norbert Dee, of Leesburg, Virginia, runs his hands over the Chessie during breed competition at The National Dog Show.
Photo courtesy Steve Surfman Photography Kennel Club of Philadelphia
While Kalyta holds Quentin, judge Dr. Norbert Dee, of Leesburg, Virginia, runs his hands over the Chessie during breed competition at The National Dog Show last weekend.

Kalyta’s journey, from escaping war in Ukraine to working at Walmart in the U.S., has been intertwined with dogs, showing her resilience and adaptability to new challenges.


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Young adult escapes bombing in Ukraine and discovers newfound purpose by caring for dogs.

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