In a touching account on Twitter, the French ambassador to the United Arab Emirates recounted how he helped save the pet bird of an Afghan girl who fled Kabul during the Taliban takeover.
Perched in a cage that now sits in the garden of the French Embassy in Abu Dhabi, Juji – the name given to the black and white mynah – has been nicknamed the Embassy’s mascot by those who care for him.
A member of the starling family, Juji arrived in the United Arab Emirates in a box on an evacuation plane last month.
Ambassador Xavier Chatel said her owner, Alia, fought to keep her beloved bird with her when she fled her home country.
“There is a story I have wanted to tell for a while,” Chatel wrote on Twitter.
“During the Afghan evacuation operation, a girl arrived at Al Dhafra air base exhausted with an unusual possession: a bird.
“She had fought to the end at the Kabul airport to bring the precious little thing with her.”
After traveling over 1,800 kilometers in a crowded plane with Juji, Alia was forced to leave the bird behind as she traveled to France to start her new life.
Mr Chatel said she had “silently cried” at the thought of abandoning the injured bird she had rescued and fell in love with.
“I was moved. I promised to take care of the bird at the residence and feed it, ”he said.
He told her that she could visit him at any time and take him back.
“I won’t forget his look of desperate gratitude.”
During his two-week job on the evacuation of Al Dhafra air base – sleeping only two to three hours a night – the ambassador slipped away for a few hours to bring Juji to the French residence.
The ride from the airbase to the embassy didn’t quite go as planned, with the bird leaping out of its box and hiding under the passenger seat.
“This energetic little myna slipped out of her box and made a big mess in the car,” he said.
“He hid under the seat and didn’t move.
“When I tried to convince him to come out, the fierce little fellow showed me that if he survived at the Kabul airport, I was no match.”
After tough negotiations, he finally emerged from under the siege and made his way to his new temporary home in Abu Dhabi.
Now with his own cage, he spends the cool mornings in the garden and has even learned to say hello.
“He has a girlfriend now; a dove who visits him every day.
“He slacked off and started saying mysterious things in a language we can’t understand.
“I tried to teach him words every day for a few minutes, starting with hello, but the point is, Juji doesn’t like men. He frowned and looked at me angrily, while he laughed at the women.
“I kept trying desperately with my daily hello, but of course he didn’t listen. Or so I thought.
One day, the manager of the French residence sent him a video of the bird saying “hello”, a moment which, according to Mr. Chatel, touched his heart.
Alia recently found the Ambassador on Twitter and was delighted to see her beloved Juji in a loving home.
And in a pact with the girl, Mr. Chatel promised to reunite the couple one day, even if it means taking his pet to France himself.
Update: October 6, 2021 6:49 am