Women and children leaving Odessa | Photo: ANSA
Women and children leaving Odessa | Photo: ANSA

Odessa citizens are fleeing the Ukrainian port city on evacuation trains headed to Romania or Moldava. Some remain hopeful that they will be able to return in a few weeks. A report.

When at 8:39 PM the first of two trains for the evacuation of civilians from Odessa leaves the station in this port city of southern Ukraine, sirens go off warning of aircraft and those who have not got on trains rush to basements.

The evacuation trains have been made available for women and children by the Ukrainian state railways company Ukrzaliznycja and leave just before curfew to enable them to travel under the protection of darkness.

Passengers do not need a ticket and can leave towards Romania or Moldava.

The second level of the station has in the meantime been set up as a dormitory for those arriving in the city from the east, while on the stairs there is a field kitchen handing out food packets for those awaiting the train to take them to Europe.

Previously, those leaving Odessa were people fleeing occupied areas and in transit through the city; now, however, the inhabitants of the port city are leaving after spending many nights in shelters.

'By May the situation should become clear'

Some are travelling light on the trains: such as Alex, 36, a mechanic from the town of Chernomorske just outside Odessa, who is leaving with just a backpack.

He says he will be away for only a week or two, since "by May this situation, in my opinion, is likely to be clearer. I left my home in order."

"If the Russians come to take my washing machine too they can have it. It seems they need it more than we do," he says jokingly in alluding to videos of appliances looted by Russian troops in villages in the eastern part of the country.

Walking along the promenade that leads to the Arkadia beach, Dmytro, a 23-year-old economics student, told ANSA: "The cafes and restaurants on this street are an Eldorado for students. Usually, when the summer season begins we make a bit of extra money by working as waiters or bartenders. Now, as we are walking here, I can't help but think of all my friends that last summer worked here and that this season instead are doing it from somewhere in Europe. If I could still leave I think I would too."

'I will not give this war the power to destroy my family'

Lidiya Ambarnikova, former national youth tennis champion, instead chose not to leave. On the night of February 24, when Russian bombs began to fall on her country, Ambarnikova was instead in the delivery room of the civilian hospital of Odessa.

"No one told me what was happened but I immediately understood that something was going wrong and I was afraid it had to do with the baby," the tennis player said.

"When I left the hospital I found out that my parents had left for Poland and I was given the choice between leaving my husband alone here after he had seen his son only for one day. I decided to stay. I will not give this war the power to destroy my family," she said.

Mayor says 'we want peace but we are getting ready for war'

On social media, Odessa mayor Gennady Trukhanov said that "if we want peace, it's better that we get ready for war."

"Every day, with every missile shot at our city, anger is growing among the inhabitants. We see what sort of brutality they are treating our people, the civilian population, our children, and our country. We know that we will soon be called upon to defend ourselves," the mayor of the city said during a live video message.

Author: Pietro Guastamacchia


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