It’s always difficult to find out how exactly things happens. So we went out. It was early April like three years ago. And we met these horses. We were all amazed that these horses basically were able to survive, because no one is really looking after them. In my understanding, basically, a person that started farming and keeping cows also brought in horses, to be able to kind of have a look at the cows. That person went bankrupt and his horses basically were left outside, were left in free nature, so they were left to themselves. Last year, I found 18 horses which died of emaciation, of cold, of being not protected in the winter surrounding. We were able to get out one of the horses, because it was coughing like pneumonia, it was in a very, very poor condition. Fortunately, then over the summer it recovered considerably, basically, and then it started to grow and became a completely different horse, it’s cured, it’s better now. And I really would like to see that we are able to find a solution for those horses who are still in Holmsk. My name is Peter, Peter Van der Wolf. And originally I am from Holland. I came to Sakhalin in 2003. Well, I was married. We thought that were going to stay here for half a year.
Well, I was married. We thought that were going to stay here for half a year. And that half a year has expanded and has been keeping expanding up till the point of where I am now. So that’s 16 years later. And I’ve no regrets. Lisa, my ex-wife, she was offered a job on Sakhalin where you have the grey whales, but you also have the Steller’s sea eagles. And because I’ve worked with these birds of prey, it was like, “Wow, Steller’s sea eagles! Let’s go, let’s go to Sakhalin immediately!” That was no question! That was, “Let’s go!” When I came to Russia and I started work in a zoo and I volunteered there. I also kind of got, as a salary, offered a horse, offered a horse, for free, after one year. I had to consider: “But what do I do with a horse?” I’ve found an area where could build a small stable and I kept that horse. I started to work with Oiled Wildlife Response, but I was also having the horses. One horse became two and three and there were people coming over and saying, “Oh, you have a nice stable, you take very good care for your horses. Maybe you would like to take care [of] our horses?” And I said, “Well, I am busy, actually, but okay.” Anyhow, I got persuaded, I was like, “Poor horses, what shall we do?” So, it was like getting up in the morning, like at 7 o’clock, and then doing the course with the horses, then going to the office and then going to do the English teaching and going on field trips. And that was, like, a very busy 6 years. In 2010, basically, I got involved in the Grey Whale Project. The Grey Whale Project is like a joint program between two big companies here on the island: Sakhalin Energy and EXXON. They run a photo ID program that helps, basically, identify individual whales, by means of their characteristics, types of pattern, which they have. Three years ago, we were out there in Starodubskoe and MCHS had been working all day. They saved two young whales by preventing them to get under the ice. But they couldn’t get whales out.
They saved two young whales by preventing them to get under the ice. But they couldn’t get whales out. We got permission from the MCHS to assist them, because these guys there were tired, they were out, they were twelve hours on the water. We were lucky that ice flows kind of broke up, and we had to push and carry and maneuver this huge male, which was about 6 meters in length. We were all tired; we were in the water from 8 o’clock in the evening till 5 o’clock in the morning. We got it out. It changes your life. And once you start do that, you will not let go of another possibility, not because you know how to do it, because you know what the effects are. Never take one dog, always have two of them, I would say, because they keep each other company. The years I lived in Holland and the years that we lived in South America I could not have a cat or a dog or whatever, because I was always in the field. I was doing the monitoring, the birdwatching, the photography, assisting in scientific projects, basically, as a naturalist. I think that changed when I came to Russia Help can be given in many different ways and sometimes help is quite simple, sometimes it’s complicated. Yes? It’s just a kind of a way of living. I never thought about it. Why? I just do it. I’m single, right, I’m not married, I don’t have children. I mean, it just happened! Karma, whatever you call it. It’s just, I don’t mind, I don’t think too much about it that I’m here and can work on rehabilitation of eagles or dogs or horses or whatever. I see many people also in Sakhalin who are involved in taking care for animals, who are very driven, who are very passionate in what they do. It’s a very difficult world, rehabilitation, you’re always running short on your budget, you’re always running out of time and you always get confronted with animals that need help just when you are tired or when you want to have a break. And making those balanced choices or getting the people to support you so that everything can be possible – that’s something very difficult; that’s a decision which only you as a person can make. Why Sakhalin? It’s the people, it’s the nature, it’s the way of how you can do your thing here. I probably would not be able to have so many horses in Holland, because there probably would be a lot of restrictions, of permits, of maybe papers, maybe other type of whatever. In that aspect, it’s easier. Where in the world can you find an area where you have and grey whales, and the big eagles, and fantastic nature here, with the salmon and the seals? I think I found myself. I think I got to know who I am. I understand what I can do; I understand what I cannot do. It’s very important in life to understand what your limitations are. If you can work within the limitations, you can reach over the limitations to get better. But that is also kind of a balance, a good balance. You should strive to improve. I think that is the part that Russia gave me, basically. Because what I so much like about Russia it’s, like, “Ну, ладно”, “Ну,бывает”. It happens, yeah? Okay, it happens. You can stay at that point and be angry, and scream and shout, but at the end of the day you have to move on, you have to solve the problem, you have to go over it. And that’s very interesting. You find that twist, you feel the energy, you feel that “Wow” moment. Okay, let’s make it happen. And when you also learn to live through those depressions, but you are able to pick yourself up again and not make yourself the center of the things, but the things around you is the center of your life, that change. Yes, that makes me happy! My ideal dream would be like a nice stable for many horses, maybe for 80 horses, a house with a little bit comfort and this place, basically, to be able to maintain and provide care to animals.