The idea, as each during our trips :-), was spontaneous. We were in the Bieszczady Mountains, we found that we are close to Lviv c.a. 130 km. So why not visit the former capital of Galicia. From thought to action in our case is a short way :-).
At that time, somehow we had no awareness that the distance to Lviv should be given in time needed to reach and not in kilometers. We are accustomed to the fact that at the land borders of Western Europe no one stops us, at the airport you have to stand for a while in queue, go through passport control and that’s all. You are in another country. Polish-Ukrainian land border recalls us the dark days when traveling wouldn’t be easy and fun as it is now.
We came to crossing point in Medyka at 4 pm, in the middle of the week (it turned out after that day is important). To crossing point leads three lanes, only one was clogged totally. Completely confused by the fact that the two lanes were designated for cars and only one was clogged we stopped on berm. I tried asked drivers from the queue why the second lane is free. It turned out that this is only for those who have “tax free” invoices.
I decided to give my shot and find border guards. On the way to the barriers I asked people in queue how long takes entering Ukraine. Answers were 4-5 hours I thought that Mania is easygoing for us during our travels, but probably not so much.
After few hundred meters I met polish guards. Kindly asked them with precariousness in my voice about the rule, which allows travelers with children to be checked in in first turn. They asked me just how old is she. I said 16 months old and they reaction were at least equal to saying that Karolina is giving birth right now. They gave me a lift to our car, then ordered others drivers to make a space and allow us to ride after guard car straight to the barriers. We were very positively surprised by their kindness and help.
On the Ukrainian side you need to collect a stamps, including three on a special piece of paper. First at the entrance, second at passport control and finally the third at customs. Guards collect it at the exit.
Whole procedure took us 1.5 hours and is only thanks to Mania. After 2 km, suddenly all cars stopped. After 10 minutes of standing in one place I went for scouting and asking question of cause of this situation. I heard “car breakdown”. Lorry stood athwart the road. We come to a standstill, to stall. After 40 minutes, someone came up with the idea that all have to go back, because c.a. 700 meters before is pass through to the field. Mania was super-satisfied (cause of bumping) that car was driving through the area designated for the tractor :-).
We had realized that the return to Poland would looks like the same, but without comfort, that we might turn around. In general, we felt powerless in the face of what we can find our way back and reliant on mercy or disfavor of Ukrainian guards.
In Hrebenne, on the way back, it turned out that our fears were justified. Ukrainian guards played it by ear that priority check in is only for child up to 12 months. Mania’s age (16 months) was too much. They told us to go back to the queue. Again we performed fast poll about waiting time. The answer was shattering – 6 hours. Super! We waited affable few hundred meters in the queue until guards went out of our sight we drove fast straight into the barrier.
There guard, who dole “magic” piece of paper, stopped us. To question what we are doing here I said we were traveling with the child on the back seat. To question about Mania’s age I solemnly replied that she is 12 months old. Pitch risky because it was easy to be verified. The guard did not want to verify :-). He ordered to stop before barrier and wait. And so we were waiting for 2 hours! (exactly before the barriers on photo above). During this time main queue was reduced by 10 cars J. Also within these two hours two more times, different guards asked us about Mania’s age and shook their heads saying that “senior in charge” does not allow let anybody out of the queue. I know, what would convince them to let us through – bribe. I played hard and tell them to call to the senior mate and tell him to do not make us fools with coming some new rules and that we had been standing here for 2 hours and we would not go back to the main queue that already God knows where now reached. Eventually we got the stamp and paper. In further queues we spent even an hour. At the Polish side an additional 40 minutes. After almost 4 hours we relived entering to the Polish side.
The moral of this I you want to go to the Ukraine do it on Sundays, in the middle of the night or with the child onboard :-). Be sure she/he is 12 months old :-).