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The heroes of Ukrzaliznytsia

Illustration: #MashaFoya


Before the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine began, 82% of cargo and 36% of passenger transportation fell on Ukrzaliznytsia. The railway became a real road to life when the war spread to the country. People were evacuated by the trains from hot spots, and the military received the necessary assistance from the railway. As a result, the Russian army is constantly shelling the railway infrastructure: tracks, bridges, substations, and railway stations. Thus, in April, Russia launched a missile attack on the railway station in Kramatorsk, where people were waiting for an evacuation train. Then, fifty people were killed, and more than a hundred were wounded. 161 Ukrzaliznytsia employees died in total as of mid-June 2022.

Despite the constant danger, railway workers continue to work relentlessly: they take people to safe cities, repair destroyed objects, and deliver goods. Usually, they don't perceive their activity as heroism. The railway workers say that they are just doing what they always do. However, their working conditions have changed dramatically in reality.

Conductors worked almost non-stop for the first months of the full-scale war, switching from one route to another. So many people were willing to evacuate, and huge crowds formed at the stations. People sat in the aisles and vestibules in the train cars so tightly that moving was impossible. Conductors had to reassure people and find a place for them when it seemed impossible. The employees of Ukrzaliznytsia almost didn't manage to eat or sleep—there was so much work. Moreover, conductors gave their compartments to passengers. Initially, about 180 people from Kyiv or Kharkiv got into a compartment car with 36 seats. The trains had to stop and wait in the field for several hours because of the shelling, so the trips were much longer than in peacetime.

Also, vulnerable categories of people got their chance for salvation thanks to Ukrzaliznytsia. For example, there were special evacuations for people with disabilities in Kharkiv. Conductors carried through the crowd people with visual impairment who wouldn't have been able to overcome this path on their own.

The volunteers helped Ukrzaliznytsia's workers at the stations. They prepared food for passengers and staff and distributed water. Also, they met people at train stations in the west of Ukraine and helped them find their way in a new city: find a place to stay, receive humanitarian aid, or change to a train going abroad.


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