Romilly Weeks reports on the heartbreaking goodbyes she witnessed at Lviv station, as families are pulled apart by the Ukraine war
I have seen so many painful goodbyes at Lviv’s station. It is the staging post for those fleeing the fighting further east.
Women and children heading west to safety in Poland and beyond. Their sons, brothers and fathers heading In the opposite direction to fight.
Today we met 10-year-old Elisaveta. She was making heart signs to her father in his military camouflage. “Papa” she called as his train drew off chasing it down the platform.
“I am very proud of him” she told me, but her lips trembled as she said “I just want him to come back.”
On the platform we saw the despair of those who have come so far and then can’t get further.
Andrii and his family had fled the shelling on the outskirts of Kyiv. Exhausted by the terror of sheltering for nearly two weeks underground.
They had travelled through the night. They had then been met by bureaucracy that would be hard to navigate even in peacetime.
No men of fighting age are allowed to leave the country unless they have written medical exemptions. Andrii had one, but not of the right category.
His documents showed he was Category 1 Subsection B the border guards told me. He needed be Category 1 Subsection A.
Andrii had recently had a stroke.
When I met him Andrii was slumped on a bench in despair. His six-year old niece was trying to comfort him, tears rolling down her face.
“We barely made it to Lviv” he said “and now we are being sent away.”
They told him to get a different document. The snow was falling in Lviv. The family, two children, Andrii’s sister, clutching their tiny dog, had no idea where to go.
We tried to intercede with the border guards. Pointing out someone with Andrii’s level of disability was hardly going to be able to fight.
It’s a Presidential decree they told us. But eventually, no doubt conscious of the presence of our cameras, they gave way. This evening Andrii sent me a picture crossing the border into Poland.