Dejan and Svetlana started their charitable endeavors modestly: they began by just feeding the strays in Cumic, a village where they lived. The locals appreciated the kind acts that the mother-son duo did, and they began building a reputation, and along with it, a bigger network and more resources; in short, they started to expand, and increased the scope of their efforts.
Finally, in 1997, they established the Vucjak Shelter. Years went by, and Svetlana unfortunately passed. But Dejan decided to keep their mutual legacy going and worked to run the shelter all by himself. Yet it wasn't as easy as before, not only because he worked alone, but also because his shelter started housing hundreds if not thousands of animals at a time.
Svetlana, the late mother of Dejan Gacic.
Dejan opened up about his mother and told Fashion Life about the impact she has made on his life. "My mother started all this in 1997. It was not planned, there was no specific reason. We found one puppy in an elevator and took him home, and that is how everything started. She just wanted to help a dog who needed help. My mother was a strong personality, strong character. She left everything in her social life and went to the village to live with the dogs. My mother and I were best friends. I'm still talking with her and telling her all the problems and challenges I am facing every day."
Dejan also reported on the current situation at the shelter. "I don't know how many dogs we've rescued and how many dogs we've had over the last 20 years, but right now we have about 1000 dogs." Taking care of them is, of course, not without issues. "At the moment, we're struggling and trying to prepare the dogs for the winter. The situation with stray dogs in Serbia is not good. People leave their dogs every day. I receive several calls every day from people who want to get rid of their dogs."
But the whole shelter business isn't just focused on domestic animals. In 2014, they secured land in Gledic Mountains and constructed a sanctuary for the wolves. Why the wolves, you might ask? Well, though the wolf is the national animal of Serbia, it faces extinction and is constantly in danger due to poachers. Dejan brings fresh meat whenever he can and advocates for their protection.
As you would suspect, running a shelter all by yourself is very hard, especially so when there are hundreds of animals to take care of, as it increases the costs of maintenance, and there's so much work ahead. For example, Dejan hopes to build winter shelter buildings and more dog houses in the near future. But the donations from kind-hearted people and organizations keep the shelter afloat, and let's hope that it stays that way for 20 more years!
Last but not least, Dejan has shown his determination to the cause that he chose. "I want to say that I will fight for animals until I die. It is my road to heaven and it's the legacy of my mother."
Svetlana started this passion, and after she passed, Degan is carrying the torch of his family.