Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Wschód słońca - Lviv part I

Health warning: This post is not recommended for anyone answering to the description of 'Pinolona's Mum'. Any such readers are advised that... - oh look over there, the kettle's boiling!

Ukraine-Poland border, some time between 2 and 4 am:

The night bus to Lviv has been waiting at the border for approximately eleven years. Suddenly and painfully the cabin lights snap on.

Pani Ukrainian Border Guard slowly makes her way up the aisle of the bus, carrying a stack of passports in one hand, systematically staring each passenger hard in the eyes, scrutinizing the passport photo, and glaring once again at the unfortunate traveller, before finally handing back the document.

She reaches my seat, and looks at me long and hard. Then she looks at my passport again, and looks back at me for what seems like an age. Although I have nothing to declare and absolutely nothing to hide - that I can remember - I start to feel nervous.

- Okulary!

She asks me to remove my glasses, in heavily Ukrainian-influenced Polish that I find hard to understand. I never wear contact lenses when travelling and I never wear glasses when having my photo taken, so I suppose I bring these things upon myself.

Pani Ukrainian Border Guard stares at me again, and back at the photo.

- Now the fringe!

In the photo I don't have a fringe. In real life I do. I suppose that is to be expected as well. My driving licence has a fringe. Obediently I push back the offending tresses.

Pani Ukrainian Border Guard frowns, concentrating hard.

- Now smile! Like in the photo!

It's all too much. I begin to giggle.

- Date of birth!

Now I don't know if you've ever tried to quote your date of birth in Polish at four in the morning. It's not the sort of thing that just trips off the tongue.

Suddenly I realise that I am a foreign girl with a funny accent, who can't even conjugate her own birthday, travelling across the border at night in the company of two Polish men. I would be suspicious of me too! Maybe I should be! Maybe I have done something wrong after all! I let slip another nervous giggle.

- Why is your passport so old? Why did you change it in 2001?

I try to explain that I used to be on my Mum's passport, and then I had my own for five years, and then I had to get a ten-year one, but she seems unconvinced.

- Repeat your date of birth!

I make slightly less of a hash of it this time, and remember to use genitive instead of locative.

- Dowod osobisty!
- umm... prawo jazdy?

I'm hoping she'll accept my driving licence as a personal ID card.

-Nie! Nie ma Pani dowodu?

You see - I try to explain - in the UK we don't use ID cards. We just don't have them.

-But what is your ID?

Well... my passport.

- No! That's your international ID. What do you use inside the country?

- We don't have them. Nie ma dowodów! Nie potrzebujemy.

At this point the Poles begin to chuckle. How can a British girl, in this part of the world, explain that she simply doesn't need to carry a personal ID card when she pops down the road for a pint of milk? For a brief moment I feel an unfamiliar flush of national pride.
I hand over my driving licence. Pani Ukrainian Border Guard examines it, compares it to my seven-year-old passport photo and - still appearing unconvinced - finally agrees to let it drop.

As she moves on to the seat behind mine, I try not to look at the pistol tucked into the back of her belt.


Ukraine-Poland border, some - considerable - time after 4 am:

The bus finally pulls out of no-man's land and -somewhat jerkily - swings back onto the road.

We push back the curtains and a wan grey light seeps into the coach.

Rolling Ukrainian pastures stretch as far as the eye can see and the rising sun blushes shyly through the dove-soft clouds.

To be continued...


Michael Dembinski said...

Ah! Nostalgia. For this is what it was like entering Poland 20 years ago. I look forward to more Ukrainian pen-portraits.

basia said...

I'm feeling nostalgic as well. On my last trip to Poland (circa 1983...oh those were the days) I travelled by train from the "West" through Berlin. Now that was a truly fun time. Germans shouting God knows what at me, armed with automatic guns and very unfriendly german shepherds (who patrolled the top of the train, underneath the train and came thru the passenger compartments).
Pino, I have to say the urge to giggle, never once crossed my mind. Crossing the Polish border was a picnic in comparison, even in those days.
I suspect my journey in Poland this summer will be much less dramatic.
Can't wait for the continuation of your story....

pinolona said...

Thanks Michael! I'm back now and I had tons more to write but, you know, work and so on. And now I have other things to write about so I may have to come back to Lviv some other time!

Basia, that sounds terrifying! Normally I love dogs but I'm not sure those German Shepherds would have welcomed my attentions. Actually I'm exaggerating, it wasn't all that bad, there weren't that many people on the bus and I was surrounded by a whole load of friendly Polish guys so I didn't feel too scared!

When are you coming to Poland? What cities are you visiting?

basia said...

Arriving in Wawa at the end of August. Staying until September 9th.

Will likely visit Torun and maybe Wroclaw. I have very fond memories of Krakow, but want to visit a town that I haven't been to before.

pinolona said...

Oh cool, that sounds great! Wrocław is lovely, you should definitely go. I'd love to see Poznań too, maybe Lublin, oh there are tons of places...

Anonymous said...

This will help you Pinolona...



Anonymous said...

And your date of birth was?
In 1976?
M I right? :-)

pinolona said...

No!!! Come on, I'm not that old!!!

Anonymous said...

OK Pino, my mistake, U R 2 years younger!
An account is easy:
"I used to be on my Mum's passport, and then I had my own for five years, and then I had to get a ten-year one", so it's made:
16 + 5 + 10 = 31
U R 31 years old.
But don't worry. U look like 27! :)

Anonymous said...

Pinolona's mum survived reading this blog surprisingly well. Maybe it was the rather special raspberry muffin she was eating at the Bog Cotton cafe at the time of reading. Or perhaps she was more pre-occupied with how she could retrieve the kong belonging to the Spaniel without which Pinolona is travelling from the bottom of the pond where she had inadvertantly lobbed it (update - she failed). Pinolona's dad would prefer to think she was more worried about whether Pinolona's dad would complete the week without falling off the ladder (update - he did not - quite - fall off the ladder). Comment by Pinolona's dad

pinolona said...

Hahahahaha thanks Dad! I'm glad you didn't fall off the ladder. And I'm sorry about the kong. Poor miniminimini. :( Look on the bright side, at least you didn't have to rescue the dog from the pond, having jumped in after the kong...

Anon - why are you trying to guess my age?? No, I'm not 31, or even 27, and my ten-year passport hasn't expired yet (and I wasn't 16 when I got my first one). And I reckon you must have a very good imagination to work out what I look like from the tiny little avatar...

Anonymous said...

No Pino, I've seen you somewhere else.

pinolona said...

ok, creepy anonymous commentator, you win, I'm creeped out, happy now?!

basia said...

eeewwww, natręt (stalker)