A woman from Bath has described her disturbing experience of crossing the border from Poland into Ukraine.
Bunny Bush traveled to Eastern Europe last Monday (March 7) to bring aid to a “friend of a friend” living near the Polish border. She had hoped to drive a car full of groceries to Ukraine and distribute them, but in the end she had to walk there.
Now safely back in Bath, the 52-year-old opened up about her time there, during which she met many people helping at the heart of the crisis. While still in Poland, Bunny spoke to Bath Live about refugee conditions and what she plans to do next.
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She said: “My partner and I landed in Rzeszów on Monday morning and it’s about an hour and a half drive from the border. So we drove to Medyka, which is on the Polish side.
“From there, we could see all the people going through the checkpoint. Most of them were on foot and there were very few cars. Every now and then a bus would pass, full of refugees, and they had flashing blue lights on them – like they were police trainers.
“All I can say is it was really dark. There was no crying, even from the kids – no tantrums and tiaras – we were just greeted by blank, expressionless faces.
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“It was mainly women, children and old people passing by, and very few men. There were also so many animals – dogs, cats and even caged birds.
“When you smiled at them and said hello, you got nothing in return. There was no frown or glare, but no smile either – just blank faces. They’ve been through so much of things that they’re just traumatized.”
Bunny traveled to Poland to help a friend of a friend, called Anna, who lives in Ukraine. She was hoping to bring him some groceries because her food was running out and she couldn’t travel.
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“Anna is sitting at home with her children and they are running out of baby food. She has her elderly mother living with her, who has just overcome Covid, so she cannot travel. I don’t think she would be able to manage the train,” Bunny explained.
So on Monday evening, Bunny headed for the border in a rental car with her partner and a few friends who also hoped to help. But, when they got to the checkpoint, things started to go wrong.
“They didn’t let us cross the border with our vehicle, because it was a rental car. So at the border there are two gates and no man’s land between the two and the guard told us to leaving our car with several others in a parking lot in no man’s land,” she said.
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That wasn’t the news Bunny wanted to hear. She had brought several bags of groceries for Anna and other Ukrainian families, which she could not carry on foot.
“We had to put as many as we could into our backpacks and pockets and then walk across,” she explained. It was dark by then and the temperature had dropped to -2°C.
Bunny and his companions set out on foot in the Ukrainian wilderness, some of them researching hotels on Booking.com. Eventually, they found one nearby that always seemed to welcome guests.
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“When we arrived at the hotel, the lady who owned it told us that she emailed us to say that they don’t take reservations on Booking.com. She said there had a school down the street where people slept, so we headed there instead.
“We were so lucky that she spoke English, otherwise we would have slept in a ditch all night. But as it was, the school was nice and warm, and full of Ukrainian families who slept by land,” Bunny said.
So she went to bed for the night and fell asleep. However, she did not sleep for more than a few hours before being awakened.
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“About the middle of the night these men burst in with guns and shone torches in our eyes. Then they said something in their own language and I said ‘Do you speak English?’
“They didn’t answer but just turned and left. Shortly after another man got up, packed his things and walked out.”
The next morning, Bunny had to call Anna and tell her that they couldn’t bring her the groceries as planned. “I had to talk to him and explain to him why we couldn’t come, which was really, really difficult,” she said.
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After breakfast, Bunny and his friends headed back to the border. At this point, they had tried unsuccessfully to find a car rental company still operating in Ukraine.
“I guess we could have bought a lot of groceries while we were there and distributed them, but that’s their food. We’d only make it worse if we started buying them,” she said. Explain.
So, with a heavy heart, Bunny approached the checkpoint to return to Poland. However, she didn’t want to leave Ukraine without leaving something of Bath behind.
“I found this stone, just two days before our overflight, and decided to bring it with me. Before leaving Ukraine, I put it next to a bowl of dog food – so hopefully someone will see it when they stop there with their dog and pick it up,” she says.
The Stone Rabbit found in Bath and left at the Ukrainian border (Image: Bunny Bush)
However, even the return to Poland did not go smoothly for Bunny. When she and her companions reached the border guard, they asked if they could collect their wages in no man’s land.
“He just ‘no’ and he wouldn’t move. He made us stand there for 25 minutes in the cold while he let other people pass and we could see them going to get their cars.
“In the end I had to wait until his back was turned and then sneak under the fence to get him. I jumped in and went around to get my partner back,” a- she declared.
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Bunny spent the next two days providing aid to Ukrainian refugees in Poland and said she did not see “any international aid groups” while there. “No Oxfam tent – nothing. It’s mostly Poles helping out,” she said.
Although she returned to Bath on Thursday, it may not be the last time Ukraine sees Bunny. She said she was now figuring out how to get back with a vehicle she could get across the border.
“I have to decide whether to buy a car or a van here and drive it to Poland, or whether to buy a car here,” she explained.
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This notice was published: 2022-03-14 14:09:54