On the platform at the railway station in the Czech town Bohumin, near the Polish border, around 40 volunteers carry the last boxes of humanitarian aid destined for Ukraine.
It is around 4:30 on a freezing morning in early March. The boxes, enough to fill seven train carriages, mostly contain power banks, personal hygiene items, children's clothes, towels, bed clothes, and sleeping bags – anything that might come in handy in Ukraine, a country that has been suddenly and violently plunged into a brutal war. The train will also carry four tons of vital medical supplies for the hospital in Lviv.
The group of volunteers from Railways Helps, a Czech initiative that has stepped in to help organize and distribute donated material for delivery across the border in Ukraine, is headed by Albert Fikacek, who runs a transport company.
Fikacek, who has dispatched train carriages to help with previous humanitarian disasters like the tornado that struck South Moravia last summer, jumped into action as soon as the invasion was launched, sending a set of seven wagons to help efforts in war-torn Ukraine.
In one direction, in addition to our group of journalists and volunteers, the train will carry humanitarian aid, and in the other, the volunteers hope to bring people fleeing Russian bombs to the Czech Republic. At least, that is the plan.
“The activity I'm trying to generate is one way of dealing with the negative emotions that the whole situation brings out in me. It's a way for me to cope with the crisis,” Fikacek says.