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A Ukrainian Railway Service Links the Capital to the Battle Zones

by Joshua Brown
10 comments
Ukrainian Railway and War

In the intricate web of Ukraine’s extensive train system, the Kyiv-Kramatorsk railway line is unique, enveloped in a quiet gravity as its occupants contemplate the journey ahead.

Every morning around 7 a.m., travelers depart from the perceived sanctuary of Kyiv, moving eastward towards conflict zones where clashes between Ukrainian and Russian forces are commonplace, often involving indiscriminate missile attacks on civilian regions.

The passenger demographic on this line provides a snapshot of contemporary Ukrainian society. It comprises military personnel on brief leaves of absence, women visiting their partners who are engaged in combat, and local residents returning to inspect their homes in the Donetsk region.

Amidst this, conversation is sparse as passengers are preoccupied with their thoughts.

Marta Banakh, 19 years old, anxiously looks forward to the train’s upcoming brief halt at one of its nine intermittent stations en route to Kramatorsk. She steps off for a quick cigarette, nervously shifting her weight from one foot to another.

Unbeknownst to her family, Marta has traversed the length of the country from western Ukraine to visit her infantryman boyfriend, who has been on duty since the onset of Russia’s comprehensive invasion in February 2022.

“I constantly worry that each day might be his last, and we might be separated forever,” she notes, her hair flowing freely, adorned with a headband embedded with pearls.

This is the sole high-speed daytime service reaching Kramatorsk. Positioned just 30 kilometers (under 20 miles) from the active battle front, the city is vulnerable to Russian assaults. Close by, conflict continues unabated around the Russian-occupied city of Bakhmut for the second consecutive year.

War has become deeply ingrained in the everyday life of millions of Ukrainians, and the country’s far-reaching railway infrastructure remains functional despite ongoing hostilities. Overnight trains still offer passengers amenities like hot tea and freshly laundered bed linens. These trains also transport goods, humanitarian aid, and equipment.

The prominence of the Kyiv-Kramatorsk route accentuates the grim reality of the conflict. According to Ukrzaliznytsia, the national railway operator, approximately 126,000 individuals utilized this route during this year’s summer months. It ranks fourth in passenger volume among all intercity high-speed trains and boasts one of the highest occupancy rates—94%—of all trains in Ukraine.

This connection had been interrupted for a six-month duration in the early stages of the conflict following a catastrophic Russian missile attack on Kramatorsk’s train station, which resulted in 53 fatalities and 135 injuries.

Alla Makieieva, a 49-year-old frequent user of this route even prior to the conflict, ponders the differences between then and now while traveling back from a business trip in Kyiv to her hometown of Dobropillia, situated near Kramatorsk.

“The demeanor of people has shifted; there is a somber tone now,” she observes. “In Kyiv, there is a contrasting atmosphere; people appear to smile more.”

Despite also being a target for Russian missile and drone strikes, Kyiv benefits from robust air defense systems, giving its inhabitants a semblance of security.

As morning sunlight gives way to noon, it bathes the spacious train compartments in a warm glow. Most of the overhead racks are occupied by military gear. Sporadically, an attendant interrupts the quiet, offering refreshments like coffee, tea, and light snacks. Additional items like pasta bolognese or cappuccinos can also be ordered.

The high-speed journey from Kyiv to Kramatorsk comes at a cost of roughly $14. In close to seven hours, passengers traverse approximately 700 kilometers (around 400 miles).

Oleksandr Kyrylenko, 26, sits contemplatively in the train’s lounge with coffee, watching the rapidly changing scenery outside.

This is his inaugural trip to the frontline, a journey he makes with surprising ease considering he had been managing a warehouse in Poland before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“No fear is present; I simply desire for the war to conclude,” he states, dressed in military attire.

Making the decision was not difficult for him; he asserts that it eased his conscience. “Human resources are becoming scarce; action is imperative,” he adds.

Upon arrival at the terminal, the platform swiftly fills with people. Some stride purposefully with military backpacks, while others engage in long-awaited, emotional reunions.

Twenty-year-old Sofiia Sidorchuk holds her boyfriend tightly; he has been enlisted since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. She explains her decision to come from the northwestern Rivne region to Kramatorsk: “We missed each other.”

“It’s love,” her partner, in military uniform, concurs.

He has been granted a few days’ respite to spend time with his loved one, after which he will be redeployed for an impending assault.


Contributed by Volodymyr Yurchuk.


For continued coverage of the war in Ukraine, visit: AP’s coverage

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ukrainian Railway and War

What is the main focus of the article?

The article primarily focuses on the Kyiv-Kramatorsk railway line in Ukraine, detailing its significance as a lifeline connecting the nation’s capital to frontline areas. It explores the experiences of passengers who use this route, set against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict with Russia.

Who are the typical passengers on the Kyiv-Kramatorsk train?

The typical passengers are a mix of military personnel on leaves of absence, women visiting their partners on the frontlines, and local residents of the Donetsk region returning to inspect their homes. The demographics represent a cross-section of contemporary Ukrainian society.

What is the train’s schedule and route?

The train departs daily from Kyiv at around 7 a.m. and heads east towards Kramatorsk. The journey takes nearly seven hours, covering approximately 700 kilometers (around 400 miles). It stops at nine intermediate stations before reaching its final destination.

How has the war impacted the Kyiv-Kramatorsk train service?

The war has not only given the train route a solemn atmosphere but also led to its suspension for six months in the early stages of the conflict. A Russian missile strike on Kramatorsk’s train station resulted in 53 fatalities and 135 injuries. Despite these setbacks, the route has remained operational and has even seen high occupancy rates.

What amenities are available on the train?

Despite the grim circumstances, the high-speed train offers amenities such as hot tea, clean sheets in the sleeping compartments for overnight journeys, and an onboard service offering coffee, tea, and snacks. Additional items like pasta bolognese or cappuccinos can also be ordered.

How do passengers feel about the journey?

The article highlights varied emotions among passengers. While some express worry about the conflict and their loved ones serving in the war, others talk about their desire for the conflict to end. The mood on the train is described as somber, with little conversation among passengers.

What statistics are available about the train’s popularity?

According to Ukrzaliznytsia, the national railway operator, the Kyiv-Kramatorsk route had approximately 126,000 passengers during this year’s summer months. It ranks fourth in passenger volume among all intercity high-speed trains and has one of the highest occupancy rates—94%—among all Ukrainian trains.

What contrasts in mood does the article highlight between Kyiv and frontline areas?

While Kyiv has a semblance of normality and security, largely owing to its robust air defense systems, the mood in frontline areas like Kramatorsk is markedly more somber. Alla Makieieva, a frequent traveler on this route, notes that people have become more serious and less prone to smiling in the face of ongoing hostilities.

How much does a ticket on the Kyiv-Kramatorsk high-speed train cost?

A ticket for the high-speed train ride from Kyiv to Kramatorsk costs approximately $14.

What source contributed to the article?

The article includes a contribution from Volodymyr Yurchuk and directs readers to AP’s coverage for continued updates on the war in Ukraine.

More about Ukrainian Railway and War

  • Ukraine-Russia Conflict Overview
  • Ukrainian Railway System
  • Kyiv-Kramatorsk Route Statistics
  • Ukrzaliznytsia, the National Railway Operator
  • Effects of War on Ukrainian Infrastructure
  • Passenger Experiences on Ukrainian Trains
  • Military Presence in Eastern Ukraine
  • Missile Attacks on Ukrainian Soil

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10 comments

JaneSmith September 25, 2023 - 3:55 pm

Really in depth article. You’ve captured the human element so well, while also giving us numbers and facts. Kudos!

Reply
EmilyK September 25, 2023 - 4:47 pm

This is journalism at its finest. The contrast between Kyiv and the front lines, the atmosphere in the train, all captured so vividly. Hats off.

Reply
DaveC September 25, 2023 - 5:11 pm

Its the small details that really get me. Like the 19-year old girl going to surprise her boyfriend. Real human stories behind the war.

Reply
MikeR September 25, 2023 - 6:17 pm

I can’t even imagine what it must be like to travel that route everyday. these ppl are made of something else. Resilient.

Reply
JohnDoe September 25, 2023 - 7:51 pm

Wow, this is eye-opening. never thought a train ride could be so laden with emotions and uncertainty. It’s like a rolling microcosm of Ukraine right now.

Reply
AnnaG September 26, 2023 - 3:01 am

the facts and figures give the emotional stories context, and thats important. keeps the article balanced.

Reply
TomH September 26, 2023 - 3:53 am

Articles like these should be read by everyone. Its easy to forget that war isnt just politics and military. It affects real lives.

Reply
SophiaM September 26, 2023 - 5:50 am

What a narrative. It’s as if I was there on the train, feeling the tension and hope at the same time. Great work.

Reply
SaraW September 26, 2023 - 7:49 am

First time hearing about this train route and honestly, im shaken. Just the thought of taking a train to a war zone is insane. Thanks for shedding light on this.

Reply
LiamP September 26, 2023 - 12:46 pm

Takes courage to do this journey. Can’t believe they manage to keep the train services running even under these circumstances.

Reply

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