A Quest to Poland
Well I do plan to keep my blog section active, I swear. Life has just been busy with both joy and stress.
Since I last wrote, I was in Ukraine seeing my now girlfriend for the first time. Since then I have been to Ukraine again, last July and was there that time for a whole month. I travelled a bit around the country, spending some time in Kyiv, then going to Odesa and other places before ending up in my girlfriend's home city of Dnipro.
Well, her name is Liudmyla Prishchenko, otherwise known as Lucy.
Our relationship started to grow and we decided to move together to Iceland. A struggle began to figure out everything we needed for moving mostly due to Covid.
Needless to say, we made it even despite a lot of stress. Even with all the things we thought could happen it was a smooth sailing.
As soon as we arrived, we started looking for jobs. Especially for Lucy. Our plan was to apply for residence permit based on work which is one of the many applications you can make for residence permit. So if she has a job which can use her degree or special skills, she can have a residence permit because of this. It was necessary to find such a solution since Ukraine is not in the European Union nor in Schengen. So Ukrainians coming to Iceland don't have the same rights as say people from Poland or other countries. After all this struggle, I now have a totally different view on all these unions, because I can't see it differently than just a way to discriminate between different countries with no real reason. But I don't want to become very political here.
Regrettably, our application for a residence permit was rejected. The Directorate of Labor decided that her job did not require her special talent and that anyone could do this job, so people from the EU would have precedence over her. Even with the help from a lawyer (and might a say a very big lawyer here in Iceland), we had no power over the corrupt, despicable bureaucrats that do not consider it a despicable act to split people apart.
At a point of panic and despair, waiting for a letter of deportation or Shiva knows what, the worst news hit us like a bullet in the face.
Just days after finally ending the war against Covid and lifting most restrictions at least in Iceland, a mentally challenged lunatic with all the personality complexes in the book decided he should send his countrymen to their death to invade the neighboring country.
Ukraine was under attack.
Officially, my generation had, in an instant, experienced not just a pandemic but also wartime. War that could have the potential to turn into another world war if so much as one missile would hit the wrong soil.
We woke up in the morning of 24th of February with a phone call, about missiles and rockets hitting the rich, beautiful soil of Ukraine. The land that I had just recently gotten acquainted to.
As horrifying as it was, it did give us one blessing in disguise. Lucy could now apply for asylum in Iceland as a refugee. I still won't ever forgive my country for a war having to start so that I can live with my girlfriend in my country and I feel absolutely ashamed, but the application was a success and Lucy got her residence permit. Currently, we are waiting for her work permit to process (yeah, even with an asylum, she still has to apply individually for a work permit). She has literally had a job contract for 9 months now, but cannot start working because she doesn't have paperwork from the bureaucrats.
Anyway, moving on to the point of the whole blog.
As the war was ongoing and news about Russia's advance on Ukraine disturbed us every day, we started to wallow in the idea of bringing Lucy's 16 year old sister here to us in Iceland.
Her sister was still in Dnipro and although other cities and areas were attacked with more force, we decided that bringing her here would be a viable option.
Weeks of research took over our lives. We needed to figure out if her sister could get all this way without a travel passport and we needed to figure out how to get her safely to either Poland or Romania and how we could go there and pick her up. There was even an idea to go to Ukraine ourselves to pick her up.
Calling every institution I can think of in Iceland and Poland and just about everywhere, it was impossible to get a clear, coherent and reliable answer. Does she need a passport? Are the rules different if she is a child? Can she travel on a train between borders? Can she buy a flight ticket?
It was a mission that could not afford a failure. A hit or miss attempt. We had to send her on a train from Dnipro either all the way to Poland or part of the way and we knew that we would always have to pick her up at some location due to the danger of human trafficking and other terrifying things.
The plan became as follows:
Her sister takes a train from Dnipro to Lviv, where she stays with a relative for a few days until me and Lucy arrive in Poland.
Me and Lucy arrive in Krakow in Poland and move from there to the east of Poland to a town called Przemysl. From there we would either stay in the town on standby or move closer to the border.
Her sister takes a train or bus from Lviv to this Przemysl where we pick her up.
We move back, all together to either Krakow or Warsaw to buy flight tickets back to Iceland.
We arrived in Krakow and spent some hours there that we had before we had a bus to Przemysl. In those few hours, we did notice how beautiful Krakow was. It would definitely be worth it to go there again in another situation.
We got to Przemysl and arrived at a bus and train station that had been refitted into a sort of a refugee camp, or like a junction point for refugees.
The station was full of volunteers, trying to help with refugees coming in waves over the border. We started again our quest for answers. We questioned the volunteers, the police, Polish people, Ukrainians, civilians, Americans.... Still we could not get any consistent answers.
We waited for news about her sister boarding the train to Poland. We waited at the station for hours, seeing it mostly empty and also full of people. The stress was mostly due to seeing news about passports now being mandatory to get across the border, which wasn't the case just before we arrived. To make us panic a little more, we saw news that Lviv was under missile attacks. Even the train station was close to a missile attack.
The stress was there present, the whole way. We watched her sister's location, which barely moved at times due to checkpoints. Every checkpoint, including the passport check at the final destination was a possible endpoint and failure in our quest.
However, she did make it all the way to Przemysl. We waited outside. But we were forced to move into the passport control when she arrived as the border guard wanted to see some form of documents, proving she was allowed to be there.
What they needed was proof that she was allowed to be without a guardian. Luckily, her mother had made such documents, explaining that her parents give her permission to travel alone. After viewing those documents, it all seemed fine. The border guard nodded and left her with us.
Although it all went fine up to this point, her sister said that an older guy took a picture of her on the train......it darkened my soul with disgust as this man was most likely a human trafficking culprit. The whole reason we came this way to pick her up. As much as war disgusts me, there is nothing that disgusts me more than human trafficking. It sickens me to my core...
The next challenge was finding a place to rest for a few hours before our bus back to Warsaw. We hadn't slept for probably two days. No hotel had any room for us so we decided to try our luck at a refugee camp in a refitted Tesco mall 5 minutes away from our location.
I had my worries that I might not be allowed there due to well....not being a refugee. But they were kind enough to let me pass and just laughed at me being Icelandic. It was a unique experience to rest in a refugee camp. As unique as it was, I hope I never have to see it again and it burned me with pain seeing the children and their families there, just escaping their home because of a lunatic.
We made it back to Warsaw. And went straight to the ticket booth at Wizz Air. And literally, no problems whatsoever. We had heard that airlines had been told to alleviate from the rules a little bit. We had some minor worries left that someone would give us trouble at the security check and that someone would still not let us through at the Gate. But there was literally no problem at all.
Now, as we live here in Kópavogur together, we have begun another quest. To figure out what the government can do for us and how to find a place for her to stay.
I am planning to write a report about all our journey. From the time we arrived in Iceland and our time in Poland, mostly to highlight the struggle we have had with the government and bureaucrats here. And with that said, I shall put an end to this article and start on my way.