At the Belarusian border I’m taken into a separate office where an officer takes a magnifying glass to my passport. I’m a bit nervous. Crossing the borders of police states is never entirely without stress. I just had to unpack my bag for another official and now things look very serious. But after about ten minutes of careful examination of my documents and some perfunctory questions I’m let go.
The guy taking me to Chernihiv used to be a cop before taking up a much more profitable job as a truck driver. We talk about the country’s new police force and he’s super enthusiastic about the changes. He seems keen on convincing me Ukraine is moving in the right direction. His friendliness goes so far that he even arranges a ride to the center of town for me after he drops me off.
After a day of visiting some impressive old churches and museums it’s time to move on. I want to go to the central Ukrainian city of Uman, but it’s kind of far away. So I decide to shoot for Kyiv for today, spend the night there and then continue on.
I walk to the outskirts of town as it starts to pour. I stick out my thumb but I’m not at a good place for cars to stop – besides nobody wants a soaking wet passenger. I give up and figure I’ll get a seat on a minibus. Quickly one stops and I ask, ‘how much?’ That’s not necessary, the driver says. I take a look and the bus is is empty except for the driver. He tells me he has to drive to Kyiv to pick up some people anyway so he might as well give me a lift. He tells me that tomorrow is Ukrainian independence day: there’ll be a parade and everything so I decide to stay in town for an extra day.