Przemysl, Poland – Every night in Przemysl Gorgeous 19th century train stationA row of people get off crowded wagons, fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But every night at that same train station, there’s also a line of people going the other way: to war.
As the sky darkened over Przemysl on Sunday, Chris, a veteran American soldier, stood with a group of strongmen, scarves over their faces, guarding a small mountain of camouflaged backpacks stuffed with bandages, chest seals, Kevlar helmets, flak plates and other Silence equipment.
Next to him was Andrei Shapur, a young Ukrainian who lived in Poland, worked as a carpenter, and now yearned to work on the front lines.
Why is he gone?
“Commitment,” Mr. Shapur said simply.
Before them, seeming calm without an iota of doubt, Zhanna Kolochova waited.
‘If it comes to that, I’m ready to fight,’ said Mrs. Koloshova, with a fierce look in her blue eyes, shades darker than her coat.
She was returning from Brussels, where she had left her two children in the care of her brother, which allowed her to focus on the war effort.
“Of course I’m afraid, it’s normal,” said Mrs. Koloshova, the owner of a travel agency from Western Ukraine, with a trembling voice for the first time. “But this is our country, and this is our war.”
They came to our land. Mrs. Koloshova said of the Russian army, firmly clutching in a backpack, her only bags.
Behind all of these was Alex Buffestian, a 53-year-old highly educated biophysicist in Leeds, England, who felt a strong desire to drop everything and go home to serve.
The windswept borderlands of Poland and Ukraine are Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, were inundated with waterwho have spent days fleeing the escalating conflict.
When the refugees get off the trains, many of them from Lviv in western Ukraine, they walk down a ramp in front of a small group of people eager, each for their own reasons, to go the other way.
Chris, an American military warrior, who asked not to use his last name because he plans to join international combat brigadehe said he was looking for a reason to join, and that seemed more inviting.
“The doors were wide open,” he said. “The Ukrainians said they needed help. And there is safety in numbers.”
“If I’m trying to get to my money, I probably won’t last long,” he said, referring to another struggle.
Trains have been running between Przemysl and Lviv since the 19th century, when both cities were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Before the war, the flight lasted no more than two hours. But these days, with so many people desperate to escape, it’s riddled with delays and takes more than 24 hours – which is only 60 miles.
Buffestian, a biophysicist, stuffed his bags with sausage and cheese so he had something to eat along the way. He stood in line, wearing a huge blue backpack, even though he hadn’t been on the plane for hours. He said he had no idea what was in store for him. He did not know how he would get from Lviv to his home on the front lines in eastern Ukraine. Or what military service he would have done.
“But I was a specialist in weapons systems in the Soviet Army,” he said. “I’m sure there is something I can do.”
War often makes people see things more clearly. As the train finally approached Ukraine, Chris’ parting words were, “No matter what happens there, I want to be honorable, respectful, and brave.”
“Alcohol geek. Certified web scholar. Travel aficionado. Subtly charming twitter fanatic.”