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War Stories

Evacuation trains departing from Kyiv are tensed, silent, and crammed. Flabbergasted and frightened children, nervous animals, exhausted and weary adults. Someone was lucky to take a seat, the rest are sitting on the floor wherever they found a place. The bare minimum of belongings occupies the rest.

As the train leaves the station, the lights are turned off. Someone from the door side whispered an order: no telephones, bright light, switched on the Internet or, God forbid, geolocation. Everyone obediently turned their screens off. It is dark. It is silent. The train is creeping cautiously through the dark and silent fields and villages. Somewhere he would freeze, somewhere do a tug.

Children start tantrums — they want cartoons, to the restroom, to have a walk. But the mobile phones should be kept switched off, to get to the toilet you probably have to float in the air, and there is nowhere to walk. Everyone understands everything and is doing their best to let you pass. Parents do what they can to soothe youngsters, but as soon as one part of the wagon is soothed — another is awakened.

One hour passed, then the second. In normal timing, we would have been near Vinnytsia. It is said, we will be there no sooner than two hours, perhaps, there will be no stop. Someone is trying to talk back, but is being hushed. Children falling asleep. With a lack of fresh air, it is becoming hot. People are bored. People are frightened. People are parched (but, probably, you remember, it is not easy to get to the toilet). The lights are ahead. Vinnytsia. The train runs with no stop. Someone sighs, someone covering himself with a jacket and starts to call. Next potential stop — Khmelnytskyi. The arrival time is unknown.

The hours passing. Children have already woken up. All hustle and bustle start over. Once again, there are lights ahead. The lights inside are turned on. Everyone squinting, taking phones, and checking the situation. We are at the railway station. It had been announced that we stopped for five minutes. Some people start to grab things, children, and cats, and wade to the doors, they exit the train. But that does not free a lot of space.

Suddenly a big checked bag is thrown in the wagon, and after a second — another two, then another one is pulled by two women. People resenting a bit — there is no free space. Someone telling that, probably, there are some animals, so you should cut resenting right out.

The women do not care. With precise movements, they are opening the bags and start to throw some packages to the nearest ones.

— Quick, just three minutes left.

People obediently pass the packages forward. The one bag is empty already, then the second. People are starting to wake up, trying to understand what is given to them.

One of the women crying out:

— Are there any children?

— Yes.

— How many?

— About 20.

She is opening the last bag, taking packages from it.

— Give it to the moms!

And a wavelike: "Give it to the mothers. Give it to the mothers".

Train tugs. One woman grasped the bags, and another threw out the rest from the bag onto the floor.

— Water, Ljuda!

One block of the water and then another being thrown in the vestibule. The train starts to move.

People open the packages. In each, there are three oatmeal cookies, a sandwich with cheese, a sandwich with butter and sausage, an apple, two chocolate candies, and a couple of candles. In packages for moms, a few diapers and three packs of baby food.

The lights are off. It is quiet, only candy wrappings are rustling, and someone is asking to pass the water. It had been told, that Ternopil is next, but, perhaps, there will be no stop. The dark train is creeping cautiously through the dark and silent fields and villages.

Ukrainian Text by Anastasia Haridzhuk. Translated into English byUkrainianvancouver team — May 10, 2022

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