Ukraine: The thousands of Russian speakers leaving all they have worked for to flee Putin's war

·3-min read

It's blisteringly hot. We watch as dozens wait in line for the station gates to be opened, for their chance to get on a train to safety.

We have seen over and over again since the start of the war in Ukraine. But it doesn't get any easier.

In the Donbas, Russian soldiers are bearing down on cities, towns and villages, while the Ukrainian army tries to hold its lines.

Read more: Zelenskyy says fate of Donbas hinges on 'brutal' war in Severodonetsk - as 'endless caravan of death' uncovered in Mariupol

Thousands upon thousands of people still remain even as the war approaches.

But when conditions become unbearable, when their homes are destroyed or uninhabitable, reluctantly, people leave, carrying what they can of their past lives.

They end up at the station, in line, trying to escape on the 16.30 express from Pokrovsk in the Donbas region.

Many of those we meet have held out for months.

But as the heavy artillery and street fighting worsens in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk especially, they say they just can't hold on anymore.

Carefully, volunteers carry the infirm and disabled to small lifts attached to the side of the train carriages.

Most will never return

They're hoisted up into the arms of waiting railway staff and carried inside.

Medics check they are okay before moving on to the next potential patient.

These people will likely never return after a lifetime in the east - a lifetime intrinsically linked to Russia. Most only speak Russian and many of their families are Russian.

Before the war, many crossed back and forth between the two countries.

Now they're being forced into a new life in the west of the country where most speak a language foreign to them, Ukrainian.

You can see their hearts are broken.

We first meet 76-year-old Kateryna Bednenko in the back of an ambulance parked on the platform.

She's had a stroke and is now immobile.

As the fighting in Lysychansk intensified, she and her husband Mykola had to wait to be rescued.

He tells us this is the first time they've been outside since February.

Just getting to this train station has been a mission for 78-year-old Valentyna Volochkova.

She went to the market near her home, came under fire, and then gave up on going home altogether.

She just kept walking, two and a half kilometres, and took the first taxi out.

She's left her life behind but has no regrets.

"What should I have waited for? For the moment [my house] was destroyed with me inside? So, I gathered all my courage, went outside, and raised my hands to show I was leaving," she told me sitting in the train carriage waiting to depart.

In a carriage for families with children we meet Liudmyla.

This is a ride she and her son do not want to take. They don't want to leave their home.

"Do I have any other choice? How do I keep my child there when all his classmates have already left?" she asks.

She feels she has to do this, if not for herself, for her son.

"Tell me, please, what would you do if you were me? Would you stay at home? All the windows were shattered, and the glass flew out…" she then starts crying, almost embarrassed by her tears.

"What, what would you do", she asks once again, her 11-year-old son sitting quietly next to her listening.

"We've worked for everything we have for 30 years. We were building the house and we'd finally finished it…"

There's no sign of let up in this war.

And those who have come here were the believers in the safety and support promised by the West - safety and support that's come too late for them.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting