Entering into Ukraine was an instant contrast to just a kilometre over in Belarus. It surprised me on various occasions how much difference a bordering crossing can make. Back in Belarus, some of the people we met were afraid to even say their president’s name, no one spoke of Russia and Putin if they weren’t in favour of him and any form of rebelling against the government was suppressed.
Then, over in Ukraine, the first pub we sat in just to use the wifi, we were imminently surprised to see a FUCK PUTIN sign spread across the doorframe. As well as this, a local microbrewery has all its labels with activist pictures about Putin and Lukashenko. Instantly, the feelings towards Russia changed. Ukraine experiencing tensions with Russia over Crimea has left a sour taste in most Ukrainians mouths, something they aren’t afraid to share. This was a huge contrast to our experience in Belarus, where we had to visit the underground theatre just to see any form of activism against the government. READ HERE
While out experiencing the nightlife in a small town in Belarus, Tyral and I managed to attract the attention of a young police officer, who instantly befriended us. A few Russian vodkas down for the two of them, and the officer was having Tyral yell our random things in Russian he didn’t understand. It wasn’t until a bar tender slapped the police office that Tyral understood that he was possibly saying something encouraging their government or Russia. The tension between to two opposing sides is extremely clear when you visit Belarus, and it’s extremely sad to meet and talk to people who are opposed to the government but there’s nothing they can do about it.
When visiting a small town and staying with a local family kind enough to take us in for two nights, the father who spoke no English was very adamant through his son that we shouldn’t enter Ukraine.
‘Bad people!’ he kept on saying, through Google translate with large hand gestures to follow. ‘They will rob you!’
I have to admit, hearing this did add a small question of worry into the two of us, who were a little uneasier when hitch hiking when we first arrived. Once in Ukraine this quickly disappeared as we met the nicest, kindest and coolest people. Turns out, when we went to leave Ukraine, old Ukrainian men told us not to go to Moldova, ‘bad people in Moldova’ apparently…
We quickly learnt that countries weren’t that friendly with their neighbours and not to listen to anyone.
Crossing the border from Belarus into Ukraine is an awesome experience to do by foot. The road stretching between is about 2km, and the entrance into Ukraine is spectacular. We acted like dumb tourists, posing and running across the border between the two countries only to walk a few meters and see a huge guard towner with a security guard watching us via telescope. Ooops!
Ukraine quickly become one of my favourite countries, it was incredibly beautiful and diverse… but thats a whole other story.