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Ukraine Report: The train to Kyiv (photos)


This Is Reno photographer and video journalist Ty O’Neil, whose passion lies with documenting conflict zones, traveled to Europe to document the war in Ukraine and its impacts. This Is Reno will continue to follow Ty’s efforts in Ukraine as he is able to send them.

KYIV, Ukraine —I boarded a train from Lviv to Kyiv on the morning of March 26 in an effort to learn more about the ongoing war. 

Lviv had been a safe haven, yet un-bombed by Russia. This changed within a few hours of my departure when a fuel depot was struck in view of the heart of the city. The bombing occurred shortly after an air siren had gone off. 

Much of Lviv grew to be unconcerned with the alarms after experiencing so many warnings with no result. 

I had already departed Lviv, and there was no way back. My train was to arrive sometime after 6 p.m. in the city of Kyiv, and that was all it would do. 

A sparsely populated train to Kyiv, Ukraine allowed for a window seat and views of the Ukrainian countryside. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

The sparsely populated train allowed for a view of the surrounding countryside – until nightfall. That was when train staff ordered all windows closed. My understanding is that the closed windows would make the train less easily spotted by possible Russian surveillance. 

The country is under a curfew. Deciding your transportation can be what decides where you spend the night – in a bed or a train station. The train I was on arrived 40 minutes after curfew, meaning that I would be spending the night inside the train station. 

I would love to share these experiences with you as I always do, through images, but I was asked not to photograph inside the building. Being wartime, I obliged, and my words will have to do the work. 

The city has reduced its lights at night, so the other passengers and I disembarked the train in all but pitch black. The inside of the station was lit, but only just before and after getting off the train.

A police officer showed me to a room where people could wait out the curfew. 

Unfortunately the room was just a standard train station waiting room. Benches and seating went to children and women first, and the lot of them were full. 

I found an out-of-the-way pillar and laid down for the night. My extra clothes were laid out on the floor to offer a bit of protection from the cold stone on which I laid down. 

Many could not sleep at all and paced the room throughout the night. Others managed to grasp small moments of sleep. 

What got to me was the cold. I would wake up desperately attempting some position of clothing and body that would hold as much heat in as possible. 

The sun eventually rose to show snow falling just outside. It was time to enter the city of Kyiv – a major Russian target – to see what I could learn.

Ty O'Neil
Ty O'Neil
Ty O’Neil is a lifelong student of anthropology with two degrees in the arts. He is far more at home in the tear gas filled streets of war torn countries than he is relaxing at home. He has found a place at This Is Reno as a photojournalist. He hopes to someday be a conflict photojournalist covering wars and natural disasters abroad.