Firefighters are crediting a dog for saving the life of a toddler lost in a Polish forest overnight over the weekend.
Friday evening, around sunset, three-year-old Julia wandered off from her grandmother’s home in the small town of Pierzwin, Poland.
More than 200 people went out in search of little Julia that night, scouring the Pierzwin neighborhoods for any sign of the missing child. When the search party made its way into the dense forest surrounding the town, everyone from the authorities to Julia’s worried family feared the worst.
“We ran around 500 metres, and there was silence,” describes firefighter Grzegorz Szymanski, who was part of the Pierzwin search party. “We stood to listen further and we heard the dog and later the crying of the child. We went in the direction and saw the child lying in the shrubs, she was wet because there was water in the forest.”
It is believed that Julia wandered aimlessly through the forest for hours, unable to find her way back to his grandmother’s house. Though she did suffer a little frostbite, Julia was still alive. Rescuers, Szymanski included, could not believe that Julia was okay. According to weather reports out of Western Poland, temperatures Friday night into Saturday morning dropped as low as -5C (23F) in the Pierzwin area.
“Remember, it was 5 degrees below zero and the child was wet,” Szymanski says, stressing how Czarue likely used his body heat to keep his best friend Julia warm throughout the cold night.
“For the whole night the animal was with the girl,” Szymanski tells the BBC News, “it never left her.”
Julia’s grandmother, Danuta Balak, could not be more grateful for Czarue, adding the stray dog and her grandchild had developed a sweet friendship over the past few years. “She was with this dog all the time,” Balak explained. “She didn’t go anywhere without it.”
“When she was with me, when I was looking after her, she constantly said, ‘Granny, the dog needs to come in the house,” Balak tells the Daily Mail. “And she told me to cut bread and she fed it all the time.”
It was the strong bond between girl and dog that likely saved Julia’s life, officials say.
“This dog is the most important part of the story,” Szymanski says of Czarue, “he is a hero. It is thanks to this dog that the girl survived the night.”