June 9th, 2023 – Day two of my trip, I was so tired that I spent 15 minutes thinking I was locked IN my apartment share because I was pushing a pull door. I was JUST about to call the apartment owner when I figured it out. Thank goodness. The language barrier is terrible enough without her thinking I’m just plain dense. So don’t expect this written account to be anything one would write home about.
Still, making my way from Krakow (Crack-of for the pronunciation police) to Przemyśl almost a year after our filming here was moving. Leaving Krakow by train was NOT easy. I got yelled at twice at the Krakow train station, once by the ticket agent and another by the security guard. They were angry I spoke English and didn’t know where I was going. I suppose. Touristy places always have a resentful local or two, and I get it; I’m the same way in NYC. Still, I don’t yell at people who ask me a question. I wonder if they realize how much their salary depends on travelers like me.
But Valentina came in to save the day. Valentina (Pictured with me) is 1/2 Polish and 1/2 Italian. She was traveling to visit her grandparents for the summer, something she’s done summer after summer for many years. She also spoke good English, helped translate for me, and ensured I got on the correct train because the information was sparse. We were in the same car coincidentally, so I paid her back by helping her with the luggage.
But boarding the train at Krakow was the biggest disorganized circus I have EVERY seen. And so unnecessary too! Everyone has an assigned seat; what’s with the stupid chaos? Is this a roller derby match or an MMA event?
I have a nice shin injury from a roller suitcase slamming me during the scrum. People filed onto our car from both ends, meeting in the middle in a too-narrow aisle that would not allow either to pass the other with luggage. We were at a standstill for a good five to ten minutes with no one willing to back down before I jumped in, in English, and began ordering people around. They listened to me?! and thanked me! I couldn’t believe it. Then they asked ME where to get off for THEIR stop, and I was like, “Whoa, that’s enough now… this is my first time taking a train from Krakow to Przmesyl. And maybe my last.
Also on the train were two very sweet Ukrainian refugee women (sisters or maybe a YOUNG grandmother and daughter) with a young baby in tow. Unlike the Polish ticket agent and Security Guard, they were exceedingly helpful in getting me on the right train. They said they were worried they had “lost me” when they saw me on board afterward.
So by the time the train was halfway to Przemyśl, I felt I knew 1/2 the car, though hardly anyone spoke English, and just an hour earlier, I knew NO ONE. That’s travel. That’s why I love it.
The World Central Kitchen Volunteers are gone at the Przemyśl train station. In fact, I didn’t see a single volunteer of ANY organization welcome the exhausted and on-edge refugees who were on the train from Krakow and, like me, heading back to Ukraine. There is a war still going on, you know? In fact, it’s worse than before in my observations thus far. People are STRESSED to the limit.
Elderly women and ladies with tired children dragging their massive suitcases up and down flights of stairs disheartened me. I saw two disturbing bouts of distress, one from an elderly lady upset about something with her, I assume, adult daughter… and another young girl, 8 or 9, I’d say, also scarily upset and causing a scene and evidently super stressed with her family about something. The psychological toll of this horror show has yet to be played out, but I saw a sneak preview today, and it was NOT good.
I missed Anastasia’s language skills several times today, not just on getting from Point A to Point B but also on more practical matters. I had to buy dental floss at the Pharmacy and test my charade skills. Deodorant was fun too. Thankfully…. all stocked up on toilet paper, but I’ve got the perfect charade move ready to go should I need to get some.
Walking to the San River, I met a colorful “anti-war” protestor on the bridge. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand precisely how the war might be ended (since Russia is 100% in charge of that situation) as his English was minor and my Polish was nil. Not suitable for such a complex subject.
If Mr. Ant-War Protester has any good ideas on how to end this madness and ensure that this NEVER happens again (we know that won’t happen if Putin wins), I’m all ears because witnessing people mentally breaking down is not fun to watch; not to mention the physical toll I’m ABOUT to see first-hand.
Still reminiscing in Przemyśl (Shey-mish for the pronunciation police) has been fulfilling. I wish I could stay longer, but I hope to see it again on the return trip in a few weeks.
Tomorrow, I’m off to cross the border back to L’viv for a few days before continuing into Kyiv. Nervous and excited, of course. I have some plans. It will be very different this trip. More on that later.
Sorry for the stream of consciousness, but I don’t have time to write correctly. I have more push doors to try to pull open.