On the edge of war, there is no exodus from Ukraine but anxiety grows

UKRAINIAN RATE 749 – We boarded the train bound for Lviv, in the northwest corner of Ukraine, near the Polish border and NATO front lines, expecting to find it crowded with people fleeing before an invasion scary Russian.

But a day after Russian troops entered eastern Ukraine, and tens of thousands more readied themselves to raid the country, there was no rush to buy tickets at the train station on Tuesday, no people with cars. jam-packed bags full of precious objects. showed they were planning to leave for good.

On the train, during conversations during the seven-hour ride on the 330-mile journey, Emile Ducke, a photographer and translator, accompanied me, and I spoke to passengers making the journey. west to Lviv, often for complicated reasons, many people are struggling to understand that what they are seeing is actually happening.

Anna Maklakova, 22, does not reject the idea that war is possible. For most of her life, since she was 14, there has been a simmering conflict against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

More puzzling to her were dire predictions from many in the West that a new war might be unlike anything the world had seen since 1945, that a shooting Destruction of Kyiv could kill tens of thousands of people and waste everything in every way. a modern western city with 2.8 million inhabitants.

“I mean come on, it’s the 21st century,” she said. “How can there be such a thing?”

However, some said they became more nervous when they heard Russian President Putin speak Monday – a chilling speech as he denied Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign state. permission.

Khrystyna Batiuk, 47, was visiting her daughter, Marta Bursuk, in Kyiv when she overheard Mr Putin talking and immediately she said she was clearly her daughter’s 1-year-old son, Oleksandr , need to leave town.

“That person,” she said, referring to Putin, “is a mentally ill person with whom it is not clear what will happen to them.”

So here they are – mother, daughter and baby, on a train – a family among millions trying to understand why their lives are being monitored by a man in Moscow.

In conversations going up and down the four-car train, people talk about friends and relatives trying to find a place for them in western Ukraine, closer to NATO forces, where they can come see and wait.

Ms. Batiuk said she was inundated with phone calls from friends around the country asking if she could host them at her family’s home in Ivano-Frankivsk, the last stop in western Ukraine.

And it’s not just Ukrainians who are moving West.

Romain, 33, declined to give his last name, is French but lives in Kyiv, and did not evacuate when France asked its citizens to evacuate last week.

But after a few days of thinking, he said, he decided to go see Lviv. He was not worried about the bombs, but about his ability to work.

“I am 100 per cent dependent on the internet, there are many ways it can be disrupted,” he said.

However, Ms. Maklakova refuses to believe that her life is about to be turned upside down. She only left Kyiv for a short trip, she said.

She lives in Kyiv, loves Kyiv and plans to return to Kyiv on Friday.

We talked about the sufferings that this nation had to endure in the 20th century.

Nearly 100 years ago, when Stalin directed his murderous act on the Ukrainians, four million people died in a raging famine. Many of the towns and villages we passed along the 330-mile road from Kyiv to Lviv were later devastated during the Second World War.

That tragic history has been repeatedly referred to by Ukrainian officials in recent months as Russian troops land en masse on the border, raising the specter of another bloody conflict on their soil.

But Ms. Maklakova still believes that the past will not be revisited.

The only time she brought up the prospect of war unaffected during hours of chat was when she showed me a tattoo, an abstract image she said represents family, on her arm. mine. Her mother also has the same one.

“She wanted me to go with her,” Ms. Maklakova said. “When times are bad, it’s only natural.”

She is aware of what is happening around her, but she says she still doesn’t understand why some of her friends are talking about leaving the capital.

“I don’t know why all this attention is on Kyiv,” she said. “If war happens, it goes to everyone.”

Ms. Maklakova, who studied international economic relations at university, works for a French pharmaceutical company and is sure to return to her office in Kyiv in the next few days. She quoted Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, as saying that he had had breakfast in Kyiv, lunch in Kyiv and would have dinner in Kyiv.

Ms. Maklakova said she felt the same way.

She says the city has captured her imagination since she first arrived in 2017. There is an energy that captivates her.

The noise in the cafes, the beauty of the parks, the feeling that her fate is her own – that’s what Kyiv means to her, she said. “I like the nightlife in Kyiv,” she said. “All my friends love to sing and dance.”

A few hours after the trip, she took a nap. As I look out the window at the frozen ground, I think about the warnings that Russia will invade before spring to make it easier for heavy artillery to move over land.

Earlier, Ms. Maklakova said she did not think about the news. And if she does, she might believe half of what she hears.

The sun was setting, casting a golden glow over the white birch forests rushing past.

As the train pulled into the train station of Lviv, a grand mansion built in 1904, a time when Europe was divided between empires, the smell of smoke and fuel filled the air.

There was a bustle that was missing when I left Kyiv. Everyone seemed to exhale as they got off the train. Lviv is a city of patriotic fervor, where green and yellow flags adorn buildings and waves from the street poles. This is a debt to Ukrainian forces and is likely to be the last place to be attacked by Russia in the event of an invasion because of the country’s proximity to NATO forces.

On the platform late Tuesday, a group of Ukrainian soldiers prepared to board an eastbound train. A man walked up to them, a stranger, held out his hand. He wished them luck and victory. On the edge of war, there is no exodus from Ukraine but anxiety grows

Fry Electronics Team

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