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Report 20:35 10 Aug 2022

"Don't leave me": How Pokrovsk-Dnipro evacuation train takes people out of shelling

A mandatory evacuation of civilians from the Donetsk region has been going on for more than a week. Rubryka visited the evacuation train and found out who and how is traveling from dangerous frontline areas away from the coming cold winter.

On July 29, the mandatory evacuation of the civilian population from the Donetsk region, announced by the government, began. In the first week, more than 2,000 citizens were evacuated, including women, children, the elderly, and people with reduced mobility.

Iryna Vereshchuk, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, explains the need for evacuation by the absence of no gas supply in the Donetsk region and the enemy repeatedly destroying everything that would help warm people in the winter. "In one word, there will be no heat in the Donetsk region during winter. Article 33 of the Code on Civil Protection of the Population speaks of this form of evacuation as mandatory. I believe that it is the duty of every adult family member," Vereshchuk concluded.

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

The Donetsk Regional State Administration has developed instructions on how to leave for free to a safe region and save your family from constant shelling and cold weather in winter:

  • leave an application by calling 0988903318;
  • get to the meeting place, from where there will be a free ride to the evacuation train in Pokrovsk;
  • take a free train to Kropyvnytskyi, receive one-time cash assistance at Kropyvnytskyi or Oleksandria stations;
  • settling in the Kirovohrad region is free.

The government provides the following social guarantees:

  • free housing;
  • free food;
  • humanitarian help;
  • psychological assistance;
  • medical assistance, etc.;
  • social support during the registration of aid from international organizations through the eDopomoga platform.

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

In the Kirovohrad region, there is a call center of the Donetsk regional military administration, where migrants from the region can receive help in the social, cultural, and psychological spheres.

Rubryka checked how evacuation trains work and set off on a train from Dnipro to Pokrovsk. The journey takes almost four hours, and we have time to talk with both the train manager and its passengers.

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

Pokrovsk–Dnipro route

Train manager Larysa Zinchenko has been working on the railway for 36 years, 26 of them as a train manager. Larysa has been riding evacuation trains for the past five months. This train is her 25th, although the woman says she has already stopped counting. "At first, it was scary. We didn't understand what was going to happen. But helping is better than sitting at home. They started taking people from Pokrovsk, looked into their eyes, understood that they were coming from basements with children, and experienced horrible things. They told us horrible things that we live through this life with them," the woman recalls.

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

Evacuation trains are dangerous. Larysa Zinchenko recalls: "Once we left Pokrovsk, we were already on our way to the Dnipro, and we found out that we had been hit near the station; the windows were blown, the door was crooked. Once at the station, the police caught a man with a grenade in his pocket."

However, the head of the train says that each ride is different; all are special in their way: "We call some people, ask how they are doing, how they got there. I remember a girl, after the 11th grade, with her mother and grandmother. The girl was crying a lot, and we calmed her down. She says we have nothing left, and we got out of the basement; they [russians] are shooting, bombing, it's scary. She said that many of her classmates had died. On the way, she called, learned that someone was injured and died, and cried all the way. I still remember mother and daughter also crying. I ask: why? She says their aunt was killed in front of them; she was coming out of the basement. Just as she opened the door, a gunman shot her in the forehead. What can I say? Grown men going away, sixty years old, are also crying. They say it is simply impossible. They endured as long as they sat in the basement. It became simply impossible; people are dying all the time."

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

It seems impossible to get used to it, but when you encounter such stories daily, you get used to them against your will. Larysa Zinchenko is also used to it. "It's not that it's not difficult for me anymore, but I'm glad to be useful; I can help. We have many people with disabilities, bedridden, and people with reduced mobility. Some older women were 98 and 96. They talk about their lives, and we listen. We feed and give them water because they can't walk without help. One of them holds my hand and says, don't leave me."

Larysa's train has six cars and 262 seats. The woman says it is mainly crowded but is now 120% full. She recalls that at the beginning of the war, there were 200 people in the wagon. The aisles were all blocked, and people were lying wherever they could. "There was great panic; we took as much as we could fit in the wagon."

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

Larysa Zinchenko says that she remembers children the most on evacuation flights. "We play with them, chat, and feed them. When children enter the train, they understand they're safe, so they are already relaxing and chatting. They can sleep, drink tea, eat."

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

She also remembers how, on Children's Protection Day, train workers took Batman and Spider-Man costumes and took away children in these costumes from the platform: "The children thought that real heroes had come to protect them. When they entered the train, they looked for them on the train and asked: Mom, where is Batman? Recently, a small dog was taken from Pokrovsk; Natasha [a colleague of Larysa, ed.] took it home and named it Friend."

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

Larysa herself lives in Zaporizhzhia and commutes to work in Dnipro. It makes two trains a month, and each train lasts seven days. Today she talks about life in Zaporizhzhia: "It's a bit scary in the city, it's noisy, but I have no desire to leave. I'm used to it, and it's not as scary as it was at the beginning."

In Pokrovsk

At three o'clock we arrive in Pokrovsk. While the platform is almost empty, except for one older woman, there are only police officers and emergency services.

We meet Vovchyk and Tatiana near one of the cars. They serve together, stand together against the enemy of Ukraine, and defend Avdiivka together. Tatiana is going on a short vacation to Lviv. Then she will come back to the front.

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

It's Nina; she is 82 years old and lives in Mykolaivka.

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

She talks about her life in recent months: "They [russians] bombed heavily. A children's boarding school was bombed. My apartment is on the fourth floor. I'm sleeping, around four in the morning the ground shakes, the floor, and the sofa, I think it's in our house. When I stuck her nose out, yes, our house was standing. When I went to the market and looked, all the windows in all the houses around were broken."

Nina is going to Kropyvnytskyi on the evacuation train to see her daughter.

"My grandson went there; he took care of me. He is visually impaired. I saw him off on the first of May. Our government tells everyone to leave. My daughter arranged for me to be taken out on the Internet. Okay, I say, I'll go."

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

It is hard not to notice a large family in the next carriage. Four grown-up children are playing on the shelves; the youngest child is in his mother's arms.

The woman's name is Anna, and her husband is Yevhen. They travel as a family from Dobropillia. By the way, it's not the first time.

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

евакуаційний потяг покровськ донецька область

"The first time we went to Lviv in April, we returned at the end of May. We lived in a hotel. The hotel is good; in the beginning, almost two thousand of us were there. They treated our children very well, fed them, treated them with sweets and fruits, and regularly gave them milk. They gave free toys. But at the end of May, we had to leave there because we had to pay for the hotel already, so we returned home," says Anna.

They decided to leave for the second time because they heard loud explosions at home. Sometimes the shells come to Dobropillia, the woman says. She says that 15 houses have already been demolished, and only the foundations remain. "In general, many people left the city; most of those who stayed are older people, those who cannot walk. If relatives have a car, the older woman is taken away. But my neighbor, grandmother Halia, lives alone. Volunteers gave her a walker and offered to leave. She says I will not go. Let me be killed here with Grad missiles. She is 85 years old, her legs hurt, and she is afraid that she will not be able to go anywhere physically. She sits and cries, and I feel sorry for her."

Anna says they took a lot of warm things with them this time; they are preparing for winter. They carry with them mainly just these clothes. "Because what else to take?" the woman shrugs. "We hope to return to our whole house. We have a garden and are used to working and planting a garden. We are already teaching children to work. I have worked in the maternity hospital for fifteen years [laughs]."

Most of the evacuation train passengers hope for just that—that they will still be able to return home, that it will be waiting for them safe and sound. In the meantime, they go to save the most important thing—their lives.

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