Rail System, and Its People, Help Pull Ukraine Through

Trains immediately switched to evacuations after the invasion, free to passengers
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2022 12:40 PM CST
Rail System, and Its People, Help Pull Ukraine Through
People stand on a bridge and in the street as they welcome the first train to arrive from the capital Kyiv, after Russian troops withdrew from the city of Kherson, Ukraine, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022.   (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)

When the Russian bombing of Ukraine began, the head of the national rail system sent his family and most of the executives west for safety. Oleksandr Kamyshin, 38 and new to the job, set up a war room, staffed by six men who knew every detail about the rail map, trains, and stations by heart, the New York Times reports. The trains would run where and when the command cell decided, for evacuations and many other reasons, including to project strength to Russia. The cell moved around to head off attacks and named successors in case. Kamyshin dropped the Western management techniques he'd learned. "We don't have discussions, we don't have a lot of opinions," he said, adding: "All decisions are made instantly and they are binding. I understood that if I sat down and took the time to make balanced decisions, it would be worse than a wrong decision."

The first decisions were that all passenger trains would be used for evacuations, free of charge, without tickets, carrying as many people who could squeeze in. And the trains would run slower than usual, to help limit the damage from any Russian strikes. Other Ukrzaliznytsia employees who are required to keep the evacuation trains running and who lost their homes in the fighting live in decommissioned carriages. None has any interest in leaving, per the Times, while they are needed. An office employee who now works on evacuation trains said she wasn't ready for the violence she saw on a medical train. "We have no right to show our emotions," said a local official who organizes the evacuations. "We have to support people. Be like a wall." You can read the full story here. (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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