The images of war dominate the 24/7 cable news cycle and sometimes we need a little break. At least I do. Fridays call for a feel-good story, a good ending to a long week of ghastly stories of violence and death. I found one.
There are stories of the White House using Instagram influencers as propaganda puppets dutifully distributing the Biden administration’s excuse for high gas prices – Putin did it – this week. A different kind of Instagram star, Stepan the cat, is making some news. The thirteen year old feline from Ukraine and his human, Anna, fled from Kharkiv for France and have arrived safely. Stepan has over one million Instagram followers. He’s known as a cat that’s chill, posing on a couch or chair in a relaxed way, sometimes with an adult libation nearby. Stepan’s followers were concerned when his account went dark after bombings by Russian forces began to attack Kharkiv. On Wednesday, Stepan appeared again and he’s fine, as are Anna and her two sons. They are now in France.
After seeking shelter in their basement, Anna, her sons, and Stepan made it to the Polish border. They took a train to the border and then walked across the border into Poland, which took nine hours standing in line to do so. By that time, World Influencers and Bloggers Association had stepped in and organized some help for them. Stepan is a star. He appeared in a Valentino ad last year. He was well-known to the association. As a side note, Valentino has not closed its stores in Russia.
It is an advertisement for @MaisonValentino which #LoveYouStepan was the face of last year. Unlike many other high fashion brands, @MaisonValentino has not closed their stores in Russia. Please demand #StopPutin and #StopWar and close your stores as protest of war in #Ukraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/cdSWjFv3xo
— Love You Stepan the Cat of #Kharkiv #Харькoв 💙 💛 (@loveyoustepan) March 17, 2022
The World Influencers and Bloggers Association was founded in 2019 as a global organization aimed at uniting influencers around the world. The group hosts an annual awards ceremony crowning the top content creators across continents, and its members include high-profile social media stars in Brazil, France, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, India, the United Kingdom, China and more.
Last year, the association named Stepan one of the world’s top petfluencers. So, when Maria Grazhina Chaplin, the association’s CEO and founder, found out about Stepan’s plight, she sprang into action.
The organization helped shepherd the famous cat and his family through Poland to a safe house in France. It rented an apartment for Stepan and his family to stay in for as long as they need. “It was not so easy, on each stage we were in touch with them,” Iryna Savchak, a spokeswoman for the World Influencers and Bloggers Association, said. “Now, we are personally taking care of them in France.”
Unfortunately, not all of the four-legged Ukrainians and their humans will have such luck as to be Instagram stars with supporters to take care of them. The point of Stepan’s story is the influence social media has in the lives of many everyday people and the benefits when help is needed.
When war breaks out, a social media star’s network abroad can become a crucial asset. In August, Aryana Sayeed, one of Afghanistan’s top influencers (she has more followers online than the country’s former president), was able to escape to Istanbul after the Taliban took over Kabul. Earlier this month, a Ukrainian Twitch streamer known as @bobuubi and his family were guided through the war zone by the devoted community he had cultivated on the streaming platform. “They tracked the family’s location day and night and fed them lifesaving information,” WNYC reported.
Stepan is adjusting to his new life in France and Anna says that she and her boys are “shocked and very much stressed.” The World Influencers and Bloggers Association says it will help other creators who reach out to them. The association is also using its platform to campaign against Putin’s war.
— Meravigliosa (@Meravigliosa121) March 18, 2022
Our pets enrich our lives and become a part of our families. It’s been heartening to see so many pets being evacuated with their humans. Poland opened its border to Ukrainians as soon as Putin began bombing Ukraine and allowed pets to come, too. It is operating shelters to rescue pets. A German organization opened an animal shelter to help at the Poland-Ukraine border.
— Room Rater (@ratemyskyperoom) March 17, 2022