We have arrived by car from Romania. Everyone was saying we were crazy. Going to Ukraine in these times, with a baby… by car? Actually, it didn’t turn out so bad after all.
First of all, one should remember that Romania and Ukraine are actually neighbouring countries!That meant we just needed to cross one border – we share the Northern Romanian border/South-Western Ukrainian one. There is the possibility to go through the Republic of Moldova (that is the route the train follows), but that would just mean two border controls instead of one. Ukraine is neither part of the Schengen space, nor the EU, but has started negotiations for accession, therefore it is part of the ENP – European Neighbourhood Policy. Among other things, that also means European citizens can enter Ukraine on the basis of their ID for a period of 90 days on a tourist visa. That already takes a lot of the burden of the preparations, and we have passed the border relatively quickly – it took an hour all in all, but it was due to some papers related to the car.
Secondly, this road trip allowed us a gradual transition to Ukraine. We went at a leisure pace and stopped along the way for food and drink, and rest. The prices are incredibly cheap, and along the border one can easily speak in Romanian and English as well. I should mention here that the roads aren’t terribly good, so not worth bringing your Ferrari. The most interesting part for me was that as they are preparing for the new harvest, the land is being cleared up by starting these enormous fires. So, upon our arrival in Kiev, as it was getting dark, and the lights on the highway were caving in, we were at some point surrounded by these fires which looked like huge torches. It was incredible. These are the sort of things you miss when flying.
Thirdly, there was no perceived danger on our way. The most I could gather related to the war that is happening in the East, is that at some point a road (heading that direction) had a barrier, and there was a screening of the cars that were allowed that way. There were signs of solidarity however, like people wearing army jackets, or having their cars or houses painted in Ukrainian colours, but nothing offensive. There is, I believe, more prejudice than fact in what Ukraine is concerned these days, and it is a pity, as people are continuing their lives in the midst of all these debates.
Last but not least, we had the chance to test Ukrainian helpfulness from day 1. The first thing that happened when we arrived in Kiev was that our car run out of fuel. Literally. We made it to the petrol station, where the employees were nice enough to give us a hand pushing the car so it would reach the hose, but then, as my husband later explained, air crept in, and as it is a diesel car, we could’t start even though we had a now full tank. With our barely manageable Russian/Ukrainian language, but relying a lot on sign language, we asked the people at the station to help us, but we were missing the right tool. And so we waited. We weren’t sure for what, but the employees seemed to have signed that (or so we thought), and so we waited for about half an hour. And then, as we were preparing to leave the car there and recover it the following day, we see the two employees approaching with another two guys, who were holding a huge case of tools. They proceeded in all leaning above the engine, and working on the car relentlessly. As I was looking at the five people leaning over our car, I recognized it. This act of kindness, followed by the roar of the engine. It wasn’t the first time we got stuck by car, and every single time, there was a generous gesture that got us out of the predicament. It was the same here, even though we had just arrived in a new city, in a new country. And then I knew we were going to be all right.
That is how, on the 10th of March 2015, at 10 PM we arrived by car to our new home, in Kiev, Ukraine. We are going to be here for at least 5 months, and I am looking forward to it. It’s off to a good start.