War in Ukraine: Secret train transports injured civilians to hospital

From the outside, the blue and yellow carriages are indistinguishable from the dozens of Soviet-era trains carrying millions of refugees fleeing the war-ravaged regions of Ukraine.

War in Ukraine: Secret train transports injured civilians to hospital

But that is completely on purpose.

Because this is a medical train carrying a load that is even more vulnerable to the Russian air raids on the country’s railways.

On board are innocent children, women, and pensioners seriously injured by bullets and bomb attacks during Vladimir Putin’s deadly attack on their once-peaceful homes and villages.

The Daily Mail joined the train last week as it entered an undisclosed location on the outskirts of Lviv, where dozens of paramedics waited on the platform in the spring sun.

A sense of hope and relief hung in the air.

Finally, after a grueling 24-hour journey of 700 miles, exhausted patients with horrific injuries were rushed off the train, loaded onto stretchers and wheelchairs, placed in ambulances, and taken to nearby hospitals for life-saving care.

The Ukrainian government says the Russian military has killed or injured thousands of civilians since the invasion began in late February.

Camera IconSoldiers walk amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. Credit: Rodrigo Abd/AP

The Kremlin denies targeting civilians, but hospitals grapple with the massive war wounded in the country’s east.

This is why the charity Doctors Without Borders has devised a unique solution to lay a medical train to evacuate them to the relative safety of Lviv.

Teams of tireless, brave medics work around the clock for passengers amid the constant threat of Russian air strikes.

The train has rescued about 400 people since it started last month, with each passenger representing a free bed in hospitals close to the front lines.

“We’ve never done anything like it,” said Christopher Stokes, the British leader of the charity’s emergency response teams in Ukraine.

“I don’t think any medicalized trains have been used since WWII.”

Mr. Stokes explains how the eight carriages were transformed into a state-of-the-art moving hospital in just three weeks.

Five beds were placed in the intensive care unit.

There are two carriages of eight-bed wards and another to carry the walking wounded and relatives.

The charity needed to widen the carriage doors so beds could be wheeled in and out.

The floors were reinforced to accommodate a two-ton diesel generator, fuel, and another 1.9-ton battery pack to run all the medical equipment.

One of the carriages has seven oxygen generators that purify the air.

But for all this state-of-the-art equipment, the old train’s antiquated heating system is still charcoal-fueled by a stoker aboard each carriage.

Ukrainian Railways provides the personnel and an electrically powered locomotive that pulls the carriages at a speed of 60 mph.

There are no showers but enough bunk beds for the 20 employees to absorb a few hours of broken sleep during the 48-hour round trip to Zaporizhzhya.

“You move, the patient moves, everything moves,” says Belgian nurse Margot Baro, 31, explaining how difficult it can be to insert an IV.

The medics look exhausted as they get off the train in Lviv.

It had fought Russian airstrikes to rescue 22 wounded from Bakhmut, a city at the forefront of the fighting in the Donbas.

After a debriefing at the platform, the medics go to a hotel to rest overnight before repeating the journey the next day.

It is mentally and physically exhausting – a trained psychiatrist is on board.

“My party is to take a shower,” says Dr. Stig Walravens, a Swede medical attendant on the train.

Among those who stumbled away was Ihor Bilyanskyi, 15, a thin boy from Siversk on the front lines.

His neck and face were covered with bandages after a grenade impact hit him in his backyard.

After climbing into an ambulance, he said: “The shelling came. I started running after the house. I came an,d I saw a lot of blood. A blast wave covered me. I was touched by the fragment and lost consciousness. My grandmother was standing before me, and I started screaming.”

Ihor will need plastic surgery but was lucky enough to survive.

The only family with him was Grandmother Valentyna – his mother had gone to Russia before the war and was not allowed to come home.

The oldest patient was Nina Dubovyk, 87.

Her daughter-in-law Valentina, 60, said: “There are always Grad missiles. One hit our house, and my mother-in-law has burns on her face. There was a big fire. We almost choked.”

Roksolana Paylyshyn, 28, a paramedic in Lviv, said: “What these people have been through is terrible. It is evil without words, but I hope they are safe now.”

Lori J. Kile
I love to write and create. I love photography, design, travel and art. I am a full time freelance writer and photographer.I am very excited to be creating new content and opportunities for my readers.