Russo-Ukrainian War: Live Updates and Breaking News on the Invasion
PRZEMYSL, Poland — Every evening at Przemysl elegant 19th century train stationthere is a line of people alighting from crowded train cars, fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But every night, in this same station, there is also a line of people going in the other direction: towards the war.
As the sky darkened over Przemysl on Sunday, US Army veteran Chris stood with a group of burly men, scarves pulled up over their faces, guarding a small mountain of camouflaged backpacks filled with bandages, chest seals, Kevlar helmets, bulletproof plates and other discreet contraptions.
Next to him was Andrii Shapur, a young Ukrainian who had lived in Poland, worked as a carpenter and was now eager to act on the front lines.
His reason for going there?
“Obligation,” Mr. Shapur said simply.
In front of them, calmly without a shadow of a doubt, waited Zhanna Koloshova.
“If that happens, I’m ready to fight,” Ms. Koloshova said, with a fierce look in her blue eyes, just a shade darker than her overcoat.
She was returning from Brussels, where she had left her two children in the care of her brother, freeing her to concentrate on the war effort.
“Of course I’m scared, it’s natural,” said Ms. Koloshova, owner of a travel agency in western Ukraine, her voice shaking for the first time. “But this is our country, and this is our war.”
“They came to our country. They brought us death,” Ms. Koloshova said of the Russian military, clutching a backpack tightly, her only luggage.
Behind them, Alex Povstyan, a highly educated 53-year-old biophysical researcher in Leeds, England, felt an overwhelming urge to drop everything and go home to serve.
The windswept border regions of Poland and Ukraine are inundated with hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, who have spent days escaping the escalating conflict.
As the refugees get off the trains, many of which come from Lviv in western Ukraine, they plod down a ramp right in front of the small group of people eager, each for their own reasons, to go the other way .
Chris, the American military veteran, who requested that his last name not be used because he plans to join a international combat brigadesaid he was looking for a cause to join and this seemed the most appealing.
“The doors were wide open,” he said. “The Ukrainians said they needed help. And there is safety in numbers.
“If I tried to get to Mali,” he said, referring to another conflict, “I probably wouldn’t last very long.”
Trains have been running between Przemysl and Lviv since the 19th century, when both cities were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Before the war, the journey took no more than two hours. But these days, with so many people desperate to escape, it’s filled with delays and takes over 24 hours – and that’s just 60 miles.
Mr. Povstyan, the biophysics researcher, packed his bags with sausages and cheese to have something to eat along the way. He stood in line with a huge blue backpack even though he hadn’t boarded for hours. He had no idea what awaited him, he said. He didn’t know how he would get from Lviv to his home on the front lines in eastern Ukraine. Or what military service he would perform.
“But I was a weapon systems specialist in the Soviet army,” he said. “I’m sure there’s something I can do.”
War often makes things clearer. As the train to Ukraine finally approached, Chris’ parting words were, “No matter what happens over there, I want to be honourable, respectful and brave.”