Jubilant crowds greet first train to Kherson since its liberation from Russia

Liudmyla (L) hugs her granddaughter Ania who arrived on the first train to arrive back to Kherson Railway station on November 19, 2022 in Kherson, Ukraine.  (Getty Images)
Liudmyla (L) hugs her granddaughter Ania who arrived on the first train to arrive back to Kherson Railway station on November 19, 2022 in Kherson, Ukraine. (Getty Images)

Jubilant crowds welcomed the first Ukrainian train in eight months to make it to newly-liberated Kherson.

The train was greeted by residents of the war-torn city holding flowers and waving flags.

One passenger, 67-year-old construction worker Hryhorii Vyrtosa, said he could not “even put my feelings into words” as he stepped off the overnight trains from Kyiv.

People wait for the arrival of the first train from Kyiv after Russia's military retreat from Kherson, at the main train station in Kherson (REUTERS)
People wait for the arrival of the first train from Kyiv after Russia's military retreat from Kherson, at the main train station in Kherson (REUTERS)

Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson from Russian occupation on November 11 in what amounted to another major battlefield setback for Moscow. It had been the only regional capital captured by Russian forces since the February 24 invasion.

Saturday’s journey marked the first time Vyrtosa, a native of the Kherson region, was able to return after escaping the Russian-occupied city of Skadovsk in April.

Upon arriving, a beaming Vyrtosa fulfilled his pledge to shout “Glory to Ukraine” upon arrival. He then tightly hugged his son, who he had not seen in eight months.

Hundreds of residents of the city, which is currently without electricity, running water or central heating, cheered as they welcomed the train.

“It’s a symbol of freedom. It’s happiness,” said Maria Matsenko, 66, who was holding a Ukrainian flag while waiting on the platform with her friend.

Anastasia kisses her mother Oksana as she arrives from Kyiv to Kherson with the first train after Russia's military retreat, at the main train station in Kherson, (REUTERS)
Anastasia kisses her mother Oksana as she arrives from Kyiv to Kherson with the first train after Russia's military retreat, at the main train station in Kherson, (REUTERS)

The train, which was brightly painted by various Ukrainian artists and featured slogans such as “People of Steel”, departed Kyiv late on Friday following a celebratory event at the main railway station.

The event included a performance by Ukrainian rock singer Oleh Skrypka, with passengers in the crowd, including Ukrainian soldiers, singing along.

Tickets to Kherson first went on sale weeks before its liberation as part of a “Train to Victory” initiative between Ukrainian Railways and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s United24 fundraising initiative.