War is new normal, a trickle returns home under ‘illusion of safety’

In the early days of the invasion, Andrew Ohirchak would see over 50,000 people coming to Lviv on trains. “But in the last ten days or so, the number is down to 10,000-15,000,” says the 19-year-old computer programming student.

War is new normal, a trickle returns home under 'illusion of safety' |  World News,The Indian Express

FLEEING their homes in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine, thousands are still coming to Lviv in the west every day. As they walk out of the over-a-century-old, grey-domed railway station, local volunteers feed them, provide medical assistance and help them find accommodation or move west to Poland.

But now, some Ukrainians have begun moving back to their homes in the east — low in number but a steady trickle nevertheless, lured by an “illusion of safety” with Russia announcing that it would now focus specifically on the Donbas region.

In the early days of the invasion, Andrew Ohirchak would see over 50,000 people coming to Lviv on trains. “But in the last ten days or so, the number is down to 10,000-15,000,” says the 19-year-old computer programming student who has been volunteering outside the station for over three weeks.

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Among the hundreds waiting for the next journey, Violata Siekicheva (42), her mother Nima Ivanona (69) and sister-in-law Alina (23), who is gently rocking her baby in a pram, are not looking for a temporary home. They have come to the station to find a way to return home in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, on the Dnieper river, which also houses a nuclear plant.

Approaching from the eastern Donbas region, Russian troops have been attacking Zaporizhzhia, which is also the main evacuation point for those stuck in Mariupol and other parts of Donetsk and Luhansk. And, the trio fled early with the baby to reach Lviv province about three weeks ago.

Siekicheva’s husband and son are part of the local police force, and stayed back. When she left, the airport had been bombed, and with the nuclear station in the city, they were worried. “Our neighbourhood wasn’t bombed, but we could hear the bombs,” she said.

“I am worried about my son and husband. When we left, the trains were cramped, and it took us 24 hours. The journey was very tough,” she said. Now, they “want to go back home” because they are less scared given the current situation — and they “want to be with the men” they had left.

US President Joe Biden underscored this during his speech in Poland on Saturday. “We must commit now to be in this fight for the long haul…This battle will not be won in days or months either. We need to steel ourselves for a long fight ahead,” he said.

As both sides become entrenched, the new normal has led to a sense of safety. Besides, the unexpected military defence by Ukraine, supported by the West, is a major morale-booster for Ukrainians who now firmly believe that they can win this war.

Oleksandr Pertsovsky, who heads the railway passenger transportation department, told The Indian Express that the number of people going west is still low. “If you have, say, 30,000 from Kyiv who went westward, it is no more than 3,000 going east…sometimes, people also go to bring back their elderly parents or pets,” he said.

But then, he acknowledges, there are families like that of Siekicheva, too. “It’s the first sign that people are willing to go back to their homes. Many who moved within the country or beyond left their houses with nothing and have nowhere to go. So the moment they see there is at least even an illusion of safety, and they can survive, they start coming back,” Pertsovsky said.

“Some have no house to return to. But at the very first opportunity, people try to return. We are very happy to bring them back. But I hope for peace time when we can bring them back to safety,” he said.

According to the railway official, 3 million people have gone west on trains since the war began. “Unless there is another offensive, or intensifying of rockets, missiles, bombs and shelling, I am not expecting another wave. It also depends on whether the sky remains a threat,” he said.

https://articlenetwork.site/war-is-new-normal-a-trickle-returns-home-under-illusion-of-safety/

“In the early days, we had upto 200,000 people per day on the trains, travelling from east to west. Now this figure has dropped to 50,000-40,000. The same applies to people crossing the international border. In the early days, there were 20,000-25,000 people using the railway crossing into Poland. Now this number has dropped to 4,000-5,000,” the official said.

There are concerns, however, about the port city of Odessa with a population of about 1 million. “It feels like a safe haven right now. But should the Russian troops advance, hundreds of thousands will be willing to escape, and will have a very narrow window,” Pertsovsky said.

He also pointed out that from areas like Mariupol, Donetsk and Luhansk, thousands are still stuck and need to be evacuated. “They are coming in hundreds every day. It’s not measured just by numbers, but also by the situation people are stuck in,” he said.

Humanitarian corridors for those stuck in Mariupol are being worked out, and 7,000 residents were evacuated on Thursday. “The first wave is behind us. But we stand ready,” Pertsovsky said.

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