Ukrainians Luba and Rodion rushed through the Lviv station tunnel with all their belongings packed into a large suitcase and a few smaller bags. Their most precious cargo is their daughter, born a month and a half ago, in a comfortable stroller. They headed for Zaporizhzhia after being evicted from their home in Uzhhorod, near the border with Slovakia.
“They raised the price and we couldn’t afford it,” Luba said as she struggled to hold back tears.
Anecdotal reports indicate that rents are rising in the safest parts of the country as more people flee the front lines in the east and south.
Luba said it was the second time she had been forced from her home because of a foreign invasion – she was 17 when Russia invaded the Crimea region in 2014.
“It was awful,” she said. As soon as she turned 18, she moved away, leaving the horrors of that war behind.
The young couple, both in their 20s, said their goal was to find a safe place to live, knowing that the Russian army is within striking distance of Zaporizhzhia and that Rodion may be called upon to take up arms in defense of his country.
“I have no military training,” he said. “But I will join the other men and protect our land.”
Soon to be boarding a train to an uncertain future, they depart with hope – figuratively and literally. They named their daughter Nadiya, which means hope in Ukrainian.
While waiting for a train to kyiv, Volodymyr Symonenko and his wife were returning home, or what’s left of it. At the station, they shared photographs of the heavily damaged building in Hostomel, where he lived with his wife.
It was February 24, the first day of the invasion, when Symonenko said he saw the Russian helicopters flying overhead firing missiles.
“I wish I had a Stinger missile with me so I could shoot down the helicopters,” he said.
But instead, they had to take refuge in the basement of the building for 20 days with the other residents who survived the attack.
The retired army soldier said he was in the Soviet army and remained in the Ukrainian armed forces after the Kremlin lost its grip on the country. He admits that he always feared that Russia wanted to take over this land.
After spending time in Lviv, the couple will return to Hostomel to be with their children. Their son is in the military.
They know the walls and windows in their apartment are damaged, but he said the roof is still intact, and that’s enough to try to rebuild their house.