July 24, 2024


Day With badminton

‘Our lives are worth nothing’

5 min read

“What are we, for folks like them?” asked Antoniusz Zawadzki, a Ukrainian refugee, speaking of political leaders in both Russia and the West. “We are absolutely nothing to them. Our governments do not just take care of us. Our lives are worthy of almost nothing.”

Zawadzki spoke even though smoking cigarettes in the darkness in a gangway link involving two rattling Elektrichka railway carriages, a Soviet-era train sort however in use in Ukraine.

  • Antoniusz Zawadzki (Photograph: Andrew Rettman)

It was freezing chilly and hours just before dawn on Saturday (12 March) early morning approaching the Polish border.

He was fleeing the war with hundreds of mainly females and young children on a densely packed practice from the town of Lviv in western Ukraine to the Polish city of Przemyśl.

Their journey was a very small part of an exodus of historic proportion in which additional than two million folks have previously fled to the EU.

Past prospect?

But a window of possibility for refugees to get out seems to be closing — Russia bombed airfields around Lviv the identical day that Zawadzki’s coach left for Przemyśl. It then fired cruise missiles in the vicinity of the railway line a day after Zawadzki’s train passed by.

Zawadzki, a 58-calendar year previous who walks with a stick and who is practically blind, experienced been living on a disability pension in “the countryside” in the vicinity of Lviv. He did not want to give a precise area.

Early previous week he fled after warplanes roaring around his property woke him up a single night. He grabbed some money and food items in a smaller rucksack but still left his savings in the financial institution. He didn’t have a cell phone quantity to simply call in Poland or an tackle to go to, but he was hoping Polish authorities would assist him to discover his brother-in-regulation who lived there.

When asked if the war could spread into Poland, Zawadzki considered extended and challenging in advance of answering: “Polish persons have wept in the earlier and they will weep once more.”

His bleak views apart, he maintained his great humour through most of the 10-hour long journey, which handles just 90km, and which would take about two hrs in ordinary problems.

He from time to time threw mock punches to exhibit off his boxing competencies and advised anecdotes. He recalled the moment currently being arrested by German law enforcement on a preceding journey to the EU for the reason that he failed to have a visa. Then he extra, with a grin: “I’ve in no way slept on this sort of white pillows or in these kinds of white sheets right before in all my lifetime” as in the German detention mobile.

But he broke down crying when he spoke of how tiring it was to achieve Lviv railway station. “I have not slept the earlier two nights,” he explained. He also cried when questioned if he was unhappy to be leaving his household driving. “You inquire me if I am unfortunate? You genuinely questioned me that?” replied Zawadzki, covering his encounter with his hand.

A lot of of the other travellers experienced also started out out in pretty excellent morale on the 5pm teach that departed Lviv on Friday. Females in a person carriage allow out a collective sigh of aid and there ended up even ripples of laughter when the educate lurched into motion.

But people’s faces, both older and younger, before long settled into silent, treatment-worn stares. Some had been on the road for days from Kyiv, exactly where they still left behind loved ones members and wherever Russian forces were firing on civilians.

They were now travelling crammed together on hard wooden benches in overcrowded and unsanitary problems. Hundreds have been pressured to stand right up until they disembarked in Przemyśl at 4am thanks to lack of seating area. Moms with infants and infants queued in prolonged strains for filthy bogs.

Like Zawadzki, they had been carrying all the things they experienced in their luggage. And they were hoping to somehow get by when they arrived.

From hairdresser to refugee

Margarit, an Armenian woman residing in Ukraine who did not give her surname, experienced fled Irpin, near Kyiv, where she had labored as a hairdresser. She showed a movie and images of her residence suburb — a row of white, 1-story houses with smouldering black holes, the result of becoming pounded by Russian shells.

She left at the rear of her Ukrainian husband mainly because in a position-bodied males of fighting age are not authorized to go away the country. She had only her handbag and a rucksack with her hair-clippers and scissors in it to start a new everyday living in the EU, exactly where she hoped to go to Germany or Belgium.

Olha, a younger Ukrainian girl who also didn’t want to give her surname, had brought badminton rackets simply because she required to perform professionally and coach in Germany. “Basically, it was usually sort of my desire to go to Germany in any case,” she claimed, her ironic smile briefly illuminated by her telephone display screen in the prepare corridor.

Soon right before midnight, the train stopped at a station in the Ukrainian countryside where by folks could use the toilets and exactly where area volunteers served them sugary tea, stew, and sandwiches.

Folks afterwards waited on board for several hours right after the teach arrived in Przemyśl as Polish border guards disembarked passengers, carriage-by-carriage, although registering the arrival of the EU’s latest refugees.

Some infants ended up crying and most individuals were being as well fatigued for smoking or banter by the time the last carriage doorways had been opened. But in spite of people’s exhaustion and any psychological trauma that they bore, the travellers experienced remained serene, thoughtful, and well mannered till their remaining times alongside one another.

And when the humanitarian reduction exertion at Przemyśl prepare station has appeared chaotic in earlier media reviews it is a haven of comfort and ease and security if you get there there on the Lviv practice with the war driving you.

Zawadzki was whisked off down the railway platform in a wheelchair by a burly and moustachioed Polish fireman in neon-orange gear.

Margarit was in the Przemyśl station ticket business speaking with a German volunteer about acquiring on a bus to Dresden.

Olha melted into the group.

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