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First evacuation by train of a seven-year-old boy from Ukraine

For 7-year-old Bogdan, his first time on a train should have been a journey of excitement and wonder, not running away with his mother and little more than the clothes on their backs.

Valerya Totskaya, 27, and Bogdan boarded the evacuation train from their hometown on Tuesday, with their papers, food, underwear and what they were wearing – a story echoed by countless families looking for a route to Ukraine.

“There was a river of people. The men pushed other women and children away to fend for themselves. It was, of course, horrible,” she told Reuters at a school-turned-shelter in Velke Kapusany, 10 km (6 miles) west of the Slovak-Ukrainian border.

“It was very hot on the train. Some people tried to lock themselves in the compartments, but the conductor said that people had to sit four on each bed, so there were 16 people in each compartment. Some slept on their bags in the hallway.”

They traveled about 1,200 km (745 miles) in total, first by rail to Lviv from Zaporizhzhia – location of the nuclear power plant seized by Russian troops on Friday – Totskaya said, explaining that her son did not hadn’t been on a train before. .

She said they then went by bus to Uzhhorod, where a contact took them by van to the border, where Bogdan was cold and the family did not sleep for two days.

“He shouted ‘Mom, I want to go home.’ I said: ‘my son, it’s impossible, there is a war’.”

Valerya Totskaya and her son Bogdan (