Venezuelan in Ukraine

Photo of author

By FTN Editorial Team

I am in a bus, going to Ukraine, weighing the look for adventures and choices that led to this trip, not without anxiety, but with, at the same time, the parallel courage and certainty, of being at ease walking at the right side of history. A nun is sitting next to me, on one side, and at a right a kid with his little brother and his mother, but  missing the father; he is not with them. The kid tells me that he is fighting for them and their country. All this while sharing cookies with me and proudly showing me pictures of their house and village. They were forced to leave them due to the Russian invasion. I am in a bus full of people I don’t know, but with a culture being apparently far away but at the same tome felt so close. Eighty per cent of those on board are women with their children, joined by only two men; I am the sole foreigner.

All those I have met on the road to their country have smiled before me and looked at me with gratitude and human warmth, due to the fact that I have made such an effort and I go with them, in spite of the fact that we are different. It is cold, and just as I write these lines, the Sun has risen, somewhere on a strange field of Poland (a country I had never visited nor felt) on the road to Kyiv. An exiled from a “lost” country going  to another one refusing to lose, in an effort to find what we have not lost: the yearn for freedom. I am going humbly, yet with determination, inasmuch as I know and feel what is fair. It is not even necessary to speak the same language, a mere look is understood.

As we reach the border, the first thing rising my attention is the mile-long line of trucks parked at the Polish side waiting to get through, The buses go directly through a road line being freed up to the border, that we reach for the quite long control on the Polish side. Once having cleared the Polish customs, we reach the Ukrainian one; meanwhile, on the bus radio we listen to Juanes’ song “La Camisa Negra”, and that I enjoyed and begun to sing it loudly. The people, with curiosity, smiling look at me, and the nun (an orthodox one)  who always had a serious expression during the trip, smiles and tells me: “Ukraine is receiving you with wide open arms!. An Ukrainian female army officer boards the bus and begins to pick up the passports, all of them being blue besides mine, that the Polish customs made, when it was clear that it was the sole foreign one at the bus. The officer had a serious face and expression, that had been said, and when having the passport on her hand, looks at me and her face changes completely, she smiles at me, as with Sun rays, we already understand each other, without understanding. She asks me something in Ukrainian that I don’t understand; the kid next to me answers for me “da” (yes), and tells me, in English that she asked me if it was the first time I came to Ukraine. I said yes moving my head, and 10 minutes thereafter (much shorter than it took at the Polish side) a Venezuelan enters Ukraine.

I am in this bus, riding through the land where I decided to go, where few people go and everything is being played: what am doing her?; how deep am I gone?. Reaching the Kyiv’s outskirts, the reality and the circumstances assail the senses and clarify the reasons; I arrive at a city in total darkness, where the only ones being seen are those of the cars and stop-signals on wholly dark streets. That leads me to think that what we look for is light; that is so much so for the people suffering the yoke of the darkness’ attacks. I reach the bus an trains station’s central square and it is totally dark, safe for a coffee shop at the corner having a  power generator at its entrance. When I left the bus, Aya was waiting for me; the temperature is below ten degrees Celsius and this woman, an artist, mother and refugee from Kherson, sleeping at a manufacture, without electricity and heat, is waiting for me, shivering, holding a warm cup of coffee for me. We hug as if we knew each other during ll our lives; if I have no hotel, I could stay with them, before the curfew beginning at a couple of hours, lasting all night. With empathy I feel like sharing with her this situation, but my contact arrives and we must board the train that same night in order to go to Kyiv. I give her my thermal gloves and she gives me those she had ”those of the kind woven by a granny” and she tell me that all the cloth she wears is that having been sent  s humanitarian aid. When I opened my bag in order to give her the gloves, she sees one of my works and exclaims with a WOW: may I take a photo? At that moment, the mutual recognition is so obvious: that of mutual consideration, love of humanity and the sharing of the same hope. She accompanies us to the station and helps us to buy the train tickets; she wits with us until the last bust she must board to reach her refuge before the curfew. We greet ourselves at a station full of soldiers an we board the train towards the capital.


To be continued…

Rodrigo Figueredo