A bouquet of roses at the front hand, soldier Yuri climbs into the train to hug his wife. She comes from kyiv to visit him in eastern Ukraine, near the front where he fights.
He is 56 years old, his wife Vira, 49. On platform 4 of Kramatorsk station, the terminus, they walk like two lovebirds.
Vira took intercity train number 712 at 6:42 a.m., line d daily union between the Ukrainian capital and this town in Donbass, located 25 km from one of the most active fronts of the war.
Seven hours of travel later, the couple reunites with emotion. The last time was this summer.
“Tears come to me (…) Today is Vira’s birthday. So it’s a gift, everything is perfect,” says the big guy, wearing a cap and camouflage fatigues, mobilized in the Territorial defense.
Like many couples separated by war who reunite there for a short time, they rented an apartment in Kramatorsk.
“He had three days off. He has just returned from +point zero+”, as the last position before the enemy is called, says the wife, dressed in an elegant shade of beige wool.
– “Dangerous” –
Andriï, 36, arrives alone from the same train. His wife accompanied him to the Kiev station where they hugged for a long time before parting.
A soldier kisses his companion on the platform of Kramatorsk station before she goes back up on the train to Kiev, October 2, 2023 in Ukraine © AFP – Roman PILIPEY
Mobilized in the 66th mechanized brigade, he returned from 15 days of vacation. His last leave was in June.
They have a young child, and there is no question of his wife coming to Kramatorsk, because “it's really too dangerous”, he judges.
“I don't know how to measure how difficult it is” to separate, the soldier said. “It will take three, four days for me to adapt. It’s the same for my wife.”
Like him, other men in fatigues get off the train, who mainly occupy the 1st class carriages. They return to the front after short leave, training or even medical care.
The wagons are full, also occupied by civilians. They come to visit relatives or friends who have remained in the region, or are displaced people who return for a few days to maintain their homes.
After an hour's stop, the train leaves again, at again complete, towards the capital where he arrives at 9:22 p.m.
Industrial city and important railway hub, Kramatorsk — 150,000 inhabitants before the war — is regularly the target of Russian bombings.
On April 8, 2022, a missile fell on the station crowded with civilians who were waiting to be evacuated, causing 61 deaths and more than 160 injuries.
Platform 4, where train 712 is parked, is protected on each side by freight cars loaded with earth.
< /p> A soldier kisses his partner on the platform of Kramatorsk station before she gets back on the train for Kiev, October 2, 2023 in Ukraine © AFP – Roman PILIPEY
Under a welcome late sun of October, Vania, 26, hugs his wife Ilona for a last goodbye. Assault infantryman, he has been fighting near Bakhmut for a year.
“The support of a loved one is important. It motivates me more,” emphasizes the soldier.
“It's not like when she arrived, where you know you're going to stay five days with your wife. Now, I'm sad,” he says.
“No matter how I come back (from the war), without arms, without legs, crazy, I know that she will always be with me,” says the young man, who does not wish to give his name like the other soldiers.
– “I leave him my heart” –
Next to it, Sergiï hugs Kateryna who cannot hold back her tears before boarding the train.
A soldier kisses his wife on the platform of Kramatorsk station before she gets back on the train for Kiev, October 29, 2023 in Ukraine © AFP – Genya SAVILOV
She stayed two days with her husband, a 34-year-old computer scientist mobilized in an assault brigade.
The doors close. Soldiers linger on the platform until departure, blowing kisses with their hands towards the wife or girlfriend.
“I have the impression that when I come to see him, I flies to him with wings, I want to hug him and never let him go,” says Kateryna, 32, on the train now heading to Kiev.
“When I leave, I leave my heart to him, so that he can constantly protect it,” she continues between two sobs.
Sitting a few places further away, Alina, 23, only saw her boyfriend, a 29-year-old aeronautical engineer, assigned to a headquarters for 24 hours. They have been together for a year.
A soldier waves to his family on a train to Kiev, on the platform of Kramatorsk station, October 8, 2023 in Ukraine © AFP – Genya SAVILOV
Employed in the medical industry, she lives in Poltava (center), one of the eight stops of train 712, three hours from Kramatorsk.
“I cannot come only once a month and only for one day. If I could come for just 5 minutes, I would come,” she said, with a sad look in her eyes.
“It’s like someone gave you candy , but that it is immediately taken away from you.”
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