Dispatches from Ukraine – The ebb and flow of Lviv-Holovnyi railway station

Arrivals and departures at the Lviv-Holovnyi railway station in Lviv, Ukraine. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Special to the Bloomingtonian)

Lviv, Ukraine, March 17, 2022

By Matthew Hatcher – Special columnist for the Bloomingtonian

With the rising sun golden light creeps through the massive glass windows that canopy the Lviv-Holovonyi railway station, where since the war began a large portion of the nearly 3 million Ukrainian refugees have passed through. Today, this morning, it is quiet in the dawn light, the smell of coal-heated trains and diesel fuel fills the air as volunteers in neon green vests and soldiers carrying Ak-74 rifles patrol the platforms.

Though it may be slow today, for the past few weeks the station has been a buzzing hive of activity as refugees board trains bound for Poland and volunteer fighters, soldiers board other trains bound for the frontlines, all of them saying their goodbyes, some with tears on cheeks, others with eyes looking somewhere uncertain far beyond the bounds of the rail station.

It is a heavy sight but one that in a world full of wars and tragedy is all too common, families ripped apart, all plans for the future tossed to the wind, life put on hold with the only guarantee being uncertainty and difficult storms to weather.

I have watched over the past few days as fathers said farewell to their wives and children, assuring them of their own safety and that they will soon reunite, but every time as the train pulls out of the station you see the look of uncertainty they’ve hidden from their families’ crying eyes wash back over their faces. They watch the train disappear down the bend of the tracks leaving only that constant smell of diesel fuel and coal, then they disappear before the next train comes and the next family is torn asunder.

War is not pretty in any regard, it’s ugliness is not bound to the front lines, all facets of life are contaminated by its ugly monstrous fingers, whoever is to call war noble has been lucky enough to have not seen it first hand.

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