This Journal column gives a glimpse into what Ukrainian Railway workers confront when on the job.
The railway system is called the “iron road” in Russian and the “ironery” in Ukrainian. “It’s not for nothing that we are called the iron people,” train driver Yurii Yelisieiev, 42, says of Ukraine’s railway workers.
Since Russia launched its full invasion in February, Ukraine has relied on its railway system to evacuate civilians, bring foreign dignitaries to Kyiv and move humanitarian supplies, essential goods, exports and weaponry. “It’s the backbone of the Ukrainian economy,” says Serhiy Leshchenko, a supervisory board member at Ukrzaliznytsia, or Ukrainian Railways. “It’s the backbone of the Ukrainian state. And in terms of a target, it’s second only to military.”
KYIV, Ukraine — A Polish friend offered some advice about taking the Ukrainian National Railways express train to Kyiv from Warsaw: Close the blinds before you go to bed, and sleep with your head by the door and away from the window. Better protection if an explosion blows it out.
But 15 hours later, pulling into the imposing central station in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, at 1:12 p.m., exactly on time, perhaps the most remarkable thing about the journey was how ordinary it had been.
Ukrainian trains have never stopped running, even in the pre-dawn hours when Russia’s attack began six months ago. This week, when a missile struck a train in eastern Ukraine and killed at least 25 people, service continued along the rest of the vast network that includes more than 12,000 miles of track. In a war bent on creating division, the rails offer vital connection