WAR IN UKRAINE The platform of tears near the front

With a bouquet of roses in his hand, soldier Yuri boards the train to hug his wife who arrives from kyiv to visit him in eastern Ukraine, near the front where he fights

WAR IN UKRAINE The platform of tears near the front

With a bouquet of roses in his hand, soldier Yuri boards the train to hug his wife who arrives from kyiv to visit him in eastern Ukraine, near the front where he fights.

He is 56 years old. His wife Vira, 49. But on platform 4 of the Kramatorsk terminal they walk like two young lovers.

Vira took the intercity train number 712 shortly before seven in the morning, the daily connection between kyiv and this city in Donbas, 25 km from one of the most active fronts of the war.

After seven hours of travel, the couple is emotionally reunited. The last time was in summer.

"Tears are coming to my eyes (...) Today is Vira's birthday. It's a gift, everything is perfect," says this big man, wearing a cap and camouflage uniform, mobilized in the Territorial Defense, jovially.

Like many couples separated by war who reunite for a short time in Kramatorsk, Yuri and Vira rented an apartment in the city.

"He has three days off. He's just coming back from 'ground zero', as we call the last position before the enemy," says the wife, dressed in an elegant beige wool piece.

Andriy, 36, disembarks alone from the same train. His wife accompanied him to the kyiv station, where they shared a long hug before saying goodbye.

A member of the 66th mechanized brigade, the soldier returns from a 15-day vacation. His last leave was in June.

They have a young child and he doesn't want his wife to go to Kramatorsk because "it's really too dangerous."

"I don't know how to measure how difficult it is" to say goodbye, says the soldier. "It will take three, four days to adapt. It's similar for my wife," he adds.

Other men in uniform get off the train and mainly occupy the first class carriages. They return to the front after short leaves, training or medical treatments.

The convoy is full, also with civilians. They come to visit friends who stayed in the region or are displaced people who return for a few days to take care of their homes.

After an hour's break, the train leaves again, once again packed, back towards the capital, where it arrives after nine at night.

An industrial city and important railway junction, Kramatorsk, which had 150,000 inhabitants before the war, is a regular target of Russian bombing.

On April 8, 2022, a missile fell on the station full of civilians about to be evacuated, causing 61 deaths and more than 160 injuries.

Platform 4, where train 712 parks, is protected on both sides by freight cars loaded with sand.

Under a comforting autumn sun at the end of October, Vania, 26, hugs his wife Ilona in his arms for a final goodbye. Stormtrooper, he has been fighting near Bakhmut for a year.

"The support of a close person is important. This motivates me more," says the soldier. "It's not like when it arrived, when you know you're going to be with your wife for five days. Now I'm sad," he admits.

"No matter how I come back (from the war), without an arm, without a leg, crazy... I know that she will always be with me," says the young man, who does not want to give his last name like other soldiers.

"I leave my heart"

Next door, Serguiy hugs Kateryna, who cannot hold back her tears before boarding the train. She has spent two days with her husband, a 34-year-old computer scientist enrolled in an assault brigade.

The doors close. The soldiers wait on the platform until the train has left, blowing kisses with their hands to the wife or girlfriend.

"I have the impression that when I come to see him, I fly towards him with wings, I want to squeeze him in my arms and never let him go," says Kateryna, 32, with the train rattling back to Kiev.

"When I leave, I leave my heart for him to constantly protect," he continues between sobs.

A few seats away, Alina, 23, has only been able to see her boyfriend for 24 hours, a 29-year-old aeronautical engineer, stationed at headquarters. They've only been together for a year.

Employed in the medical industry, she lives in Poltava (center), one of the eight stops on train 712, just three hours from Kramatorsk.

"I can only come once a month and only for one day. If I could come for just five minutes, I would," he says with a sad look. "It's like they give you candy, but they take it away right away," she sighs.