No one knows when the train will pull into Dnipro’s central station. The timetable was discarded a few days ago. But there are thousands of people prepared to keep watch in its grandiose ticket hall.
Sometimes one train for Lviv pulls in – sometimes the city may get two per day – and every train heading towards Ukrainian’s western border functions as an evacuation train, packed with people who are desperate to leave.
When we saw a large crowd surge towards the track, we were certain the Lviv train had arrived.
Ukraine news live: Russia launches major assaults
As people scrambled for the carriage doors, I asked them how felt about leaving.
“Very bad, very, very, bad,” said one woman.
“Why?” I asked.
She replied: “I am angry because Putin (is a) d***head.”
Prized possessions thrown into bags
Weighty decisions are made in an instant. Prized possessions have been thrown into a couple of bags.
“It’s so bad,” said one woman. “People have to leave their homes and everything they own, and actually it is terrible because I want to live in a peaceful country and in one day it all went bad.”
We watched as the train attendants begged people to step back, for it was clear that many at the station would not get a seat.
Suitcases were shuttled over people’s heads and in a few minutes, the train was full.
Today’s main developments in the Ukraine crisis:
• Russia acknowledges hundreds of military casualties
• UN says at least 800,000 Ukrainians have fled their homes
• Boris Johnson accuses Putin of ‘war crime’
• Opposition leader Navalny calls for daily protests
• Joe Biden closes US airspace to Russian aircraft
• Outrage as Russian athletes allowed to compete at Paralympics
The majority on this train are women and children, as men aged 18 to 60 in Ukraine are not allowed to leave the country under martial law provisions introduced on the first day of the Russian invasion.
We saw many onboard make solitary farewells, like Natalya Nekrasa, whose husband will stay in Dnipro to fight.
“I am breaking apart, I have to take my son to a safer place but half of me remains with those who have stayed in Dnipro,” she said.
I asked where she was planning to go.
“In Lviv, we don’t have anywhere to go, we don’t have anyone there. I don’t know.”
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A sense of shame at leaving
Some told us that they feel shame for leaving their loved ones at home. Others struggle to make sense of it.
Oleg Kuznetsov is from the city of Volnovakha, Donetsk, which he says has been 80% destroyed by Russian forces.
“I just think Putin has gone crazy, and I don’t think there is anything else to say,” he said.
His nine-year-old daughter Sonia is terribly confused: “I wish it all wouldn’t happen, I want it all to be over.”
Iryna Kulish and her son, Stanislav, have been travelling for days after her home town, Brovary, was attacked by the Russians. She escaped with her neighbours and has spent four days trying to avoid the fighting.
She told me she will never be the same: “It is fear and hatred, and emptiness inside me.
“Everything has changed inside me. At the same time, you are crying and hoping and being disappointed.
“It is the full spectrum of emotions.”
More than 800,000 have left
We arrived in Lviv to the sound of the air raid sirens, a reminder of everything they left behind.
It is this reality that will prompt many to continue the journey, moving west into the arms of the European Union.
More than 800,000 have joined this exodus, according to the UN’s refugee agency – and each one will wonder if they will ever make it home.