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Ukraine. Thousands of Russian speakers are abandoning everything they worked for to flee Putin’s war | world news

It is scorching hot. We watch dozens of people line up for the station doors to open, for the chance to board a train safely.

We have seen time and time again since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. But it doesn’t get any easier.

In the Donbass, Russian soldiers rush into towns and villages, while the Ukrainian army tries to hold its lines.

Read more: Zelenskyy says fate of Donbas hangs on ‘brutal’ war in Severodonetsk – like ‘endless death caravan’ discovered in Mariupol

Thousands and thousands of people still remain even as war approaches.

But when conditions become unbearable, when their homes are destroyed or uninhabitable, people reluctantly leave, taking what they can of their past lives.

They find themselves at the station, in line, trying to escape on the 4:30 p.m. express from Pokrovsk in the Donbass region.

People arrive at a train station in eastern Ukraine
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People arrive at a train station in Eastern Ukraine

Many of those we meet have held out for months.

But as the heavy artillery and street fighting worsens in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in particular, they say they simply can’t hold on any longer.

Carefully, volunteers transport the infirm and handicapped to small lifts attached to the side of the train carriages.

A woman is loaded onto a train at a station in eastern Ukraine
Image:
A woman is loaded onto a train at a station in eastern Ukraine

Most will never come back

They are hoisted into the arms of waiting railway staff and carried inside.

Doctors check that they are okay before moving on to the next potential patient.

These people will probably never return after a life in the East – a life intrinsically linked to Russia. Most speak only Russian and many of their families are Russian.

An elderly woman is among those forced to flee by train from eastern Ukraine
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An elderly woman is among those forced to flee by train from eastern Ukraine
A woman is brought to a train station in eastern Ukraine by ambulance
Image:
A woman is brought to a train station in eastern Ukraine by ambulance

Before the war, many commuted between the two countries.

Now they are forced into a new life in the west of the country where most speak a foreign language, Ukrainian.

You can see their hearts are broken.

We first meet Kateryna Bednenko, 76, in the back of an ambulance parked on the platform.

Kateryna and Mykola are waiting for a train to take them from eastern Ukraine
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Kateryna and Mykola are waiting for a train to take them from eastern Ukraine

She had a stroke and is now immobile.

As the fighting in Lysychansk intensified, she and her husband Mykola had to wait for rescue.

He tells us that this is the first time they have come out since February.

Getting to this station was a mission for 78-year-old Valentyna Volochkova.

Valentina
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Valentyna Volochkova had difficulty reaching the station

She went to the market near her home, came under fire, and then completely gave up on going home.

She just kept walking, two and a half kilometers, and took the first taxi.

She left her life behind but has no regrets.

Families walk to join a train at a train station in eastern Ukraine
Image:
Families walk to join a train at a train station in eastern Ukraine

“What should I have waited for? For now [my house] was destroyed with me inside? So, I gathered all my courage, I left and I raised my hand to show that I was leaving”, she said to me, sitting in the car waiting for the departure.

In a car for families with children, we meet Liudmyla.

It’s a race that she and her son don’t want to do. They don’t want to leave their house.

“Do I have any other choice? How can I keep my child there when all his classmates have already left?” she asks.

A family arrives at a train station by car in eastern Ukraine
Image:
A family arrives at a train station by car in eastern Ukraine

She feels she must do it, if not for herself, for her son.

“Tell me, please, what would you do if you were in my place? Would you stay at home? All the windows were smashed, and the glass flew away…” she then begins to cry, almost embarrassed by her tears.

“What would you do,” she asks again, her 11-year-old son sitting quietly beside her listening.

“We’ve worked for everything we’ve had for 30 years. We were building the house and we had finally finished it…”

There is no sign of appeasement in this war.

And those who came here believed in the security and support promised by the West – security and support that came too late for them.

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Post expires at 9:46pm on Tuesday June 21st, 2022