“I’m afraid to ride this route. But what to do? Such service.” Even the war did not stop the Ukrainian trains
Photo: Jose Colon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Ukrainians feel safe on trains, because Ukrzaliznytsia has always been a sanctuary of normality and certainty in a country where little has been normal since the declaration of independence in 1991. Even the war didn’t change that. I found out about it, traveling thousands of kilometers in Ukrainian trains and spending hundreds of hours in them.
Five minutes, 19 minutes, an hour, an hour and 46 minutes, two hours – in one week only, between March 8 and 15. Train PKP On March 14, InterCity “Orzeszkowa” arrived from Jelenia Góra to Warsaw with a delay of 106 minutes. InterCity train “Malczewski” from Krakow to Kołobrzeg on March 8, arriving in Wroclaw, was already 119 minutes late. Additionally on the TVN Warszawa website, I read that “at the Warsaw Railway Junction (…) the manager of the railway infrastructure canceled eight connections of the S40 line from Piaseczno and Warsaw Central from March 15 (…). Also, 16 connections of Koleje Mazowieckie were canceled and the connection of another seven was shortened.
It lies beyond its eastern border Ukrainewhere a regular war has been going on for more than a year. Russian soldiers fire at trains and railway stations, rockets fall on energy infrastructure facilities, depriving traction, and there are mines and unexploded ordnance on the tracks. And yet, Ukrainian railway workers manage – at times one would like to say that their trains run like a Swiss watch.
Since November, I often ride Ukrainian trains. Only one train was late – from Kiev to Izium, liberated in September in eastern Ukraine. After a massive rocket attack on Ukraine in the morning of March 9, we stood at the Kharkiv station for an hour and a half longer than scheduled. – Only 15 rockets flew to Kharkiv. There is no electricity in the traction. We are waiting for a diesel locomotive to be assigned to us, because the electric one will not go further – the conductor explained to me when I went out to the platform to smoke a cigarette.
Ukrainian Railways, or Ukrzaliznytsia, is a huge machine. Day after day and night after night, he distributes people, goods and military equipment around the country for the fight against Russia army. Supports over 21,000 km of tracks (before annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbass (approx. 27,000). Ukrzaliznytsia is one of the largest Ukrainian enterprises, employing over 370,000 people. people. There is no room for error here, everything has to work here.
Fear at the train station in Kherson
Kherson railway station. There are over 20 wagons along the platform. It’s still winter, but here – in the south of Ukraine – when the sun comes out, it gets warm in spring. Explosions are heard every now and then. Like in stereo – once it bangs on the left, after a while on the right. The locals are used to it, because the Russians from the opposite bank of the Dnieper are shelling Kherson almost constantly.
Each car is looked after by a conductor or female conductor, called guides. They make sure that the car is warm, they distribute bedding, coffee and tea, they close the toilets at stops so that passengers do not use them, because most of the cars do not have a closed water circuit and waste flows onto the tracks. The guides and guides also check the tickets and let them into the carriages.
A Russian shell just hit harder closer to Kherson station. Guides and guides raise their shoulders as if they want to hide their heads in them. No wonder, they came here for a while from other regions of Ukraine, where shelling is not so frequent. I’m afraid to drive this route. You hear them shooting. But what to do? This is our service – tells me the guide from the fourth car.
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