By Steve Richards
Spring has sprung as I head back to Poland with a new little Ukrainian refugee.
My final hike in Ukraine was to the Kyiv train station from my hotel near Independence Square on a beautiful spring Saturday. As I was about to take the scenic route through a flowering park on the way, another siren reminded me that the war continues on for all trying to enjoy a sunny day in the park, pushing baby carriages, walking their dogs, playing at a playground; just enjoying a beautiful day. The wail of the siren was just a kind of background noise for most. Life goes on.
The trek back to the USA from Bucha was almost as complicated as getting there and took days. The train out of Kyiv on April 23rd would have been much easier were it not for the cancelling of a deluxe sleeper train to Warsaw I had booked. Not an unusual thing to have trains running a little unreliably for obvious reasons.
So, I wound up taking a rather convoluted route which switched trains at a blacked-out train station somewhere in the middle of Ukraine. There I was loaded on to a 4-person sleeper compartment of another train that picked me up solo just after midnight on Easter (Orthodox calendar).
There was no light on in the compartment as my fellow travelers were fast asleep. The train was headed for Przemysl just over the Ukraine border in Poland. A little town made famous for the processing of countless numbers of refugees from the war; including one little lady with whom I spent the entire 13-hour ride. Turns out there were five of us in the compartment. She made me realize that I had run into just about every Ukraine story that one hears about. Refugees, fighters, victims, even soldiers from the USA. She also made me understand better what this whole thing is about in the end.
After another 6-hour train ride to Warsaw and an overnight stay I flew out of Chopin Airport on the 25th.
I was forced to fly back to the USA out of Warsaw because the airports in Ukraine were closed when the Russians invaded on February 24th. This points out one of the biggest issues confronting Ukraine: How to get their economy back. When it takes days for a traveler to navigate the planes, trains, and automobiles – not to mention the occasional van or bus – to get to Kyiv from the USA, well, it’s daunting. Few business travelers, let alone tourists, will brave the trek. But that’s a topic for another post.
Anyway, back in the USA I am. And, as always, it’s nice to be home.