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Return to Kyiv by night train

#Return #Kyiv #night #train

As the train pulls to a halt just across the Polish border, Tatiana’s smile lights up her moon-shaped face.

Like the other passengers on the train that connects the Polish city of Chelm with Kyiv, after four months in exile, Tatiana and her mother Valentina have decided it’s time to come home, despite the war, despite the insecurity.

The two women – who declined to give their last names – are from Kryvyi Rig, the hometown of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in central Ukraine.

They fled abroad right at the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 to join friends living in Izmir, Turkey.

Tatiana, who worked in the capital Kyiv as a sales representative for a marketing company, continued her work from Turkey.

“But four months is enough. It’s not easy living in a country where you don’t know anything and don’t speak the language,” she explained.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen or when the war will end, but we’re going home.”

A third of the 7.3 million people who have fled Ukraine since the start of the war, like Tatiana and Valentina, have chosen to return.

In the capital – where some semblance of normality has returned since Russian forces withdrew from the region in April – two-thirds of residents have decided to return.

– ‘If they are not dead’ –

Many of the passengers on the night train are women and children.

One of the few male travellers, a man in his 30s, spends long hours standing in the corridor and silently gazing out the window at the green Ukrainian countryside.

After two months of abstinence, Maxime goes to the Donbass, the industrial region in the east that Russia wants to conquer with all its might and where the war is raging without let-up.

The shelling is relentless and Russian forces are slowly but surely gaining territory at the cost of many lives. The destruction is massive.

“I have to visit some people there. If they’re not dead,” says Maxime bluntly.

Waiting for hours on the Polish side of the border and then again on the Ukrainian side doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

The journey will take more than 15 hours, so why get impatient?

The passengers seem to be connected by a subtle, intangible thread. Whatever their personal stories, whatever their reasons for returning – and in most cases they don’t want to elaborate – they are bound by this decision to return.

– Take care of oneself –

Two young women, who didn’t know each other before, talk quietly in the hallway late into the night.

A song by Ed Sheeran plays softly from one of the wagons.

The blond ticket collector, bossy but personable, paces the streets taking orders for tea and water, checking to make sure everyone is comfortable.

The same calm prevails as the train approaches Kyiv in the early morning light.

But there are more wet eyes and the atmosphere becomes more solemn.

A good-natured warden, who has set off in shorts and flip-flops, changes into his white shirt uniform.

Travelers carefully fold their beds and empty their bins.

The train pulls into the station.

The security guard unloads the crates and helps passengers down onto the platform, where husbands, fathers and brothers, bouquets in hand, await their families.

Still beaming, Tatjana says goodbye to her fellow travelers. She tells them to take care of themselves.

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#Return #Kyiv #night #train

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