Ukrainian families reunite as Kherson railway station reopens

Ukrainian families reunite as Kherson railway station reopens
Ukrainian families reunite as Kherson railway station reopens

Ukrainian families reunite as Kherson railway station reopens

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Kherson (Ukraine) (AFP) – Amid tears, smiles and the occasional explosion, the first train in eight months arrived from Kyiv to the southern Ukraine city of Kherson on Saturday, and families separated by war were reunited.

Shortly after getting off the train and meeting her mother, Anastasia Shivlyuga, 30, said: “I promised to come back. It happened and I kept my promise.”

For others, the moment of arrival in Kherson was the saddest.

Svetlana Dusenko fought back tears as she waited for her only son, whom she last saw before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

“He’s the last one I left here,” she says.

Ukrainians have lived in grief, humiliation and fear in recent months as Russian forces fanned out from Crimea and occupied much of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, including Kherson.

Two days after the war began in February, Dusenko’s husband died of COVID-19 after power was cut off at the hospital where he was staying and where he was on a ventilator.

In the months that followed, she lived under the occupation of Russian forces, who occasionally searched homes and set up checkpoints around the city.

“It was very chaotic and very difficult. Russian soldiers searched my house. They broke in and were looking for weapons,” explainsDOSenko.

She wants to take the train back to Kyiv with her son on Saturday evening.

“I just want to see him and tell him I love him.”

“we are free”

A few meters away, Lyudmila Romaniuk, 66, is holding a bouquet of flowers and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her granddaughter.

“Your people in Kherson don’t know she’s coming (…) You and I planned it,” she said, laughing. “We’re finally free.”

“It’s a win for everyone. We have been freed and my favorite baby is here.”

Passengers walk with their luggage at Kherson railway station on November 19, 2022
Passengers walk with their luggage at Kherson railway station on November 19, 2022 Guinea Savelov ap

Others came to the station not to meet anyone but to enjoy Kherson’s return to the Ukrainian authorities.

For railway workers, the arrival of this train is a moment of great pride.

Over a hundred workers have worked 12-hour days in rain and sleet for the past week, clearing and repairing nearly 60 kilometers of track with the help of demining teams.

“It’s touching,” says Denis Rostec, 31, a railroad worker from the nearby city of Odessa, “after we found out about the liberation of Cherson, we were given the job to repair 58 different damaged spots on the line.”

vital

Trains have long been the industrial and economic backbone of Ukraine, and since the beginning of the war have represented a vital route, transporting millions fleeing conflict while bringing combatants to the front lines.

The reopening of the railroad for trains to Kherson will be an important supply for a city in dire need of assistance.

During the Russian retreat from Kherson more than a week ago, in a delicate phase with the approach of winter, they destroyed vital facilities that deprived the city of electricity and water.

An employee of the Ukrainian railway network on the first train running from Kyiv to Kherson since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on November 18, 2022.
An employee of the Ukrainian railway network on the first train running from Kyiv to Kherson since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on November 18, 2022. Guinea Savelov ap

Since then, humanitarian aid has poured into the trucks and cars that traveled the destroyed road between Kherson and the city of Mykolaiv.

“It’s important and vital for Kherson because the city now gets equipment and help from the railways,” says Yury Karlyukin, 53, who worked for Ukraine’s railways for 15 years.

“The sooner Kherson is connected (by rail), the sooner life will return to the city,” he added.


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