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Residents of Kyiv who left because of the conflict begin to return


And I'm Scott Detrow, riding the train east into Kyiv here in Ukraine. And it's fair to say this train is pretty crowded. We've been walking through the compartments. They're full. They're full of families, people with suitcases, people bringing pets with them. This is the opposite of what we saw in the early days of the war when people were fleeing Kyiv on trains like this. Right now, here in this moment, it seems like people are coming back to Kyiv.

At the train station in central Kyiv, there are armed police checking documents and passports. They're verifying identities and looking for weapons before letting passengers into the station. While we're waiting, we talk to some of our fellow passengers. Some are fleeing from places like Mariupol, but most are returning to a newly liberated Kyiv.

MARIA KOSTIUK: (Speaking Ukrainian).

DETROW: Fifty-three-year-old Maria Kostiuk is dragging a small suitcase behind her. She's coming back to Kyiv after initially fleeing to a nearby city. She left her kids there, but she wanted to come back to be in the city to help the economy here.

KOSTIUK: (Speaking Ukrainian).

DETROW: She says she missed Kyiv a lot. And right now the threat from Russia, as troops have fully left the area, seems to have gone away. Standing nearby, another woman, Svetlana Blavatna, is bundled up in a coat with a scarf wrapped around her head. Through our interpreter, she tells us she's coming back from Chernobyl in the west, but she's worried about the Russians coming back.

SVETLANA BLAVATNA: (Through interpreter) I'm still afraid that they can come back. They can do this. They can retaliate again. They can do a second wave. And I know there is a risk.

DETROW: Thirty-five-year-old Petro Mazuh holds his passport in his hand, ready to pass through the ID check. His hoodie is up, and he looks a little dazed. He says he stayed in Kyiv for a few weeks during the war.

PETRO MAZUH: (Through interpreter) But then, at some point, it became really, really, really, like, terrifying. I decided to go to see my parents, and now I'm coming back here.

DETROW: We mentioned we're surprised to see the train so full today. He says, yeah, he's surprised, too.

MAZUH: (Through interpreter) I'm thinking the city is getting back to life, slowly but firmly. So that's why I want to take part of it.

DETROW: Then we ask about the one thing that seems to be on everyone's mind here right now - the gruesome discoveries in recent days in the suburbs of Kyiv, less than 20 miles west.

MAZUH: (Speaking Ukrainian).

DETROW: His eyes tear up. He looks away.

MAZUH: (Speaking Ukrainian, crying).

DETROW: He says reading that news was the hardest day of his life. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
Sarah Handel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]