Speeding towards Lviv, a medical train carries wounded to evacuate them, far from the violent combats of the east of Ukraine.
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For Evguen Perepelytsia, an electrician before the war, it is the hope of finally seeing his children again, a few days after having come close to death.
“We hope the worst is behind us, that after everything I’ve been through, it will be better,” said the 30-year-old man, lying on a bed in a train car, swaddled in a gray blanket.
He was among a group of 48 people, injured or elderly, evacuated this weekend from eastern Ukraine, where fighting is intense, to Lviv, the big city in the west of the country.
A long night’s journey to be safe.
This is the first evacuation of its kind since the deadly Russian strike on Kramatorsk station on Friday, which killed 57 people including at least 5 children. And the fourth organized by the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24.
Inside one of the wagons transformed into a makeshift hospital, Mr. Perepelytsia tells AFP how he lost his leg during a bombardment against his hometown of Girské, 75 kilometers northwest of Lugansk .
He was outside his house when the bomb exploded, moments after discussing with his wife the possibility of leaving and joining their children in the west of the country.
“I took one step forward, and when I wanted to do the second, presto, I fell!” he says.
“The impact took place really close. The bomb hit a monument, a fragment of which tore my leg off.
Sitting on the end of his bed, his wife, Ioulia, 29, explains to AFP the fear she felt at the idea of losing her husband.
“He lost consciousness twice when he was in intensive care,” she adds. “Doctors couldn’t save his leg, but we saved him.”
Their three children are waiting for them in Lviv, with their grandmother.
“We will not return” to the east of the country, she insists.
According to the UN on Sunday, 1,793 civilians have been killed and 2,439 injured since the conflict began on February 24, but experts agree that the true figures are likely much higher.
More than 10 million Ukrainians have had to leave their homes, either to go abroad or to find refuge elsewhere in Ukraine, very often in the west of the country.
In recent days, authorities in the eastern regions have urged residents to evacuate the area amid fears of a major Russian military offensive in the coming days.
When the train arrives in Lviv, the doctors are busy helping those who cannot walk alone to join the ambulances stationed nearby. The others are installed in buses in the direction of a nearby hospital.
In one of the buses, Praskovia, 77, waits, her eye hidden by a large white bandage.
“My eye hurts me,” murmurs this old lady, who did not wish to give her surname and said she came from the village of Novodrujesk, in the Lugansk region.
“The doctors on the train were very attentive,” she said.
In front of her is Ivan, a 67-year-old man, shot by the Russians and who had to wait two days in a basement, injured, before being rescued in the town of Popasna (east).
His neighbors gave him first aid before doctors arrived.
Not far away, on the station platform, Jean-Clément Cabrol, coordinator for MSF, is delighted with the success of the operation.
But many other civilians in the east of the country still need to be evacuated and transported on a medical train, he recalls.
“We’re leaving tonight,” says Mr. Cabrol on the quay, determined to continue the evacuations.
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