10 September 2006

Ukraine - EU Border

I recently spent some time on the East Slovakian village of Ulic which borders Ukraine. Visas are required for citizens of either state to cross the border (as a UK citizen I could theoretically cross freely in either direction). EU money is being ploughed into Ulic to modernize the border facilities. Ulic is certainly an interesting place. Thickly forested hills separate Slovakia and Ukraine, but from certain potholed tracks you can view distant Ukrainian villages. Charcoal processing remains a significant business in the town and provides work for the significant Romany population. My guide pointed out several abandoned homes, whose residents had moved out to find work elsewhere. There was also a small row of large, modern detached houses. Their owners are said to benefit from smuggling activities. There was a noticeable police and army presence in the town and I felt a bit fortunate not to be stopped as I drove around. Although there were some Ukrainian language signs I didn’t see any Ukrainian cars or other evidence of any border crossing.

I heard a very interesting story during my time in Ulic which resonated a little. It was a story of a Slovak who came across a Ukrainian man. The Ukrainian man offered the Slovak $500 not to shop him to the authorities. $500 is likely two month’s salary in this part of Slovakia, but the story goes that the money was rejected and the authorities were informed. The point is that in border towns like these the local population can’t afford to make exceptions and do indeed act as a bulwark for the rest of the country against illegal immigration. The nearest the UK has to this town is probably Dover at the turn of the millenium.


Ellee said...

What an interesting experience, I would love to visit these villages too. Why did you have a guide?

Praguetory said...

My guide was a guide in the sense of the person who knew the area showing me around rather than a paid guide. He is a builder who has been working on border-related buildings. In the close proximity are some very beautiful wooden churches and very tranquil National Parks.