This French train station is located in a town renamed after the famed writer Marcel Proust's fictional name for the village.
Throughout its 118 years of existence, this grand station has seen its fair share of baggage of all shapes and sizes. Though this year is different. Instead of containing a souvenir t-shirt or snowglobe, whole lives are carried within each parcel and suitcase. Today, arriving at Lviv Central Station in western Ukraine is not just signaling the completion of a visitor’s journey—it is a sign of hope.
With the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Lviv’s train station was processing over 60,000 refugees a day on its platforms. Stepping off trains with all they had, travellers called family members letting them know they were okay, or simply let out breaths of relief that they had made it out of the eye of the storm.
Recognizing the need to help these uprooted travelers, the city of Lviv set up temporary hospitals, food dispensaries, and information tents at the station. Thousands of volunteers have greeted new refugees each day since the first evacuation trains arrived, offering assistance where needed or even handing out apples to hungry hands. With the influx of people and the pressure that can place on a city, a community could turn to anger, but instead, there’s been a universal effort to bring peace to fellow countrymen desperate for a temporary nest.
As the massive surges of people moving through Lviv were first documented, a video circulated online of a man playing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” on a Central Station piano. In such trying times, these moments at the station are a reminder of the good in people, and that while the world can be a devastating place, there is always beauty to be found. The offer of an apple from a stranger is no longer seen as odd, but rather an act of love and neighborly care. To many people a suitcase is just luggage, but presently in Lviv, it’s so much more.
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