Ukraine means ‘borderland.’ And we were about to experience the borderland border crossing into Poland. Sooo not wanting any problems, but we knew we were not in good standing with an expired visa (kind of hard to hide when the border patrol is specifically checking such things) plus over our allotted days in Ukraine (maybe, just maybe, no one would want to bother adding and subtracting the various entries/departures).
We had already repacked our bags so that if we were removed from the train to pay the fines we would have all of our valuables with us in over-the-shoulder bags. Best to be prepared.
A few moments — hours? — of sleep and suddenly the overhead light was brightly shining directly into my eyes. Now was the time to continue praying fervently. My mind kept going back to the children’s catechism question that we had just studied a couple of weeks ago: “Where is God?” “God is everywhere.” As this song kept running through my head — in Ukrainian, mind you! — I suddenly realized … remembered … that God IS everywhere, including on this train with me. I know, I know, how could I forget? I AM a missionary, you know, so all things spiritual are always forefront in my mind. Heh. As we are always advised, speak English to the border guards to be absolutely certain that you know what they’re saying/asking and your response. New friend (see post from yesterday) was listening to our conversation and the guards called for an English speaking guard to join them. All very official. Once they checked our passports we were reminded that we had been there one month too long. Why were we there? Do you have proof of your work? When they learned that Jim was volunteering at Okmatdet (national children’s hospital), the English speaker seemed a bit softer towards us. He was not the final word, though. He was simply translating.
Passports gone. Bright lights still on. NF was playing war games on his computer. I closed my eyes, but not for long. Customs officials were now asking what was our purpose in entering Poland and what did we have in our bags. Visas. Clothes. Computers. Any money? Well, yes, we need to buy the visas. Our NF jumped in to say that Jim was a doctor volunteering at a children’s hospital in Kyiv. Okay, have a good trip. Thanks, NF! He made life a little easier at that point.
The process of changing the wheels on the train takes quite awhile — the track gauge is different in former CIS countries, so the wheels must be changed. So even though we had a break from questioning, the clanging and banging prevented much sound sleep.
After two hours, our passports were returned with a stern warning that it was not a good idea to be in Ukraine for an extended time without proper documents. And it will be difficult to return without a visa. That we knew. He handed Jim both of our passports and left our coupe.
Really? No fine? We peered around our bunks, gave each other high/low fives and thanked God that we were on our way again. Still in search of the D visa, but one huge step closer.
The light went out, though the computer games continued. Click, click, click, click as he manipulated the mouse. Thankful that we didn’t have to hear the explosions on-screen, but also thankful for a kind and helpful traveler in our coupe.
Another showing of passports as we officially entered Poland, and our NF once again told our story. Thanks again.
Next stop? Warsaw. Sure wish we had heard from our host about our reservations for that night. Another interesting story, but we had no idea what to expect…did we have a place to stay? We were confirmed in one flat near the embassy, but our host had ANOTHER flat and that’s the one he wanted to put us in. What do you do when he’s already received the payment for two nights?
And when should we meet to get the key? And where? Do we have time to go to the embassy first? And how do we touch base without the internet? Guess we’ll need to purchase a Polish sim card and see what we can find out upon arrival.
Always an adventure. And again, always good to know Who is with us through it all!
(I apologize for no pictures…but trust me…border crossings are not conducive to picture-taking…unless you want to lose your camera!)