A week ago, I left my apartment intending to break the law. What happened is a far better story, if you ask me.
I live in Sums’ka oblast in Ukraine and we share a border with Russia. I think where I live, I’m about 50-60km from the border if you go directly there. It’s close but not quite I-can-see-Russia-from-my-house close. However, a friend of mine lives in a small town much, closer to the border. The two of us, along with a third PCV, got the idea in our head that it’d be cool to cross into Russia, even just a step, illegally.
Now I’m completely aware of what could have happened if we had been caught. But we didn’t plan on getting caught because we had it all worked out. The run was roughly 15km to the border (I’ve suffered lately from self diagnosed Runner’s Knee (Type A) so this was a long distance for me). We mapped it out on Google Maps. Planning to leave Brian’s apartment and then we planned to follow the main road north to the border. We were going to turn off the road before it turns for the last straightaway towards the border.
As it turns out, we read the map correctly but didn’t zoom in enough on the satellite view to see that the point we were planning on leaving the road was actually the point where the border guards were waiting. Ho hum.
Here are some pictures from the run:
When we got to the border, one of the guards called us over to find out what we were doing. We explained that we had gone for a run and we just wanted to see the border crossing. He didn’t seem to buy it so he called his superior officer over to talk to us.
We told that guy the same story. He wanted to see our documents. Larry and Brian both brought their passports, I didn’t for two reasons. First, it’s not comfortable to run carrying a bunch of stuff and a passport certainly isn’t ideal for carrying while running. Second, I brought my Ukrainian work ID, which I was told would be sufficient identification within Ukraine and since we didn’t plan on leaving Ukraine and getting caught, I thought it’d be enough (if we did get caught crossing the border, I doubt my passport would have helped me get out of trouble).
The guard looked at my ID as though he’d never seen one before, and he probably hadn’t. I told him it was all I had and all he could really do, other than remind us repeatedly that if we wanted to cross the border we’d need our passports (he didn’t understand that we didn’t want to cross), was wag his finger at me (which he actually did and I wish I had a photo of it but there’s a strict no-photo rule and Ukrainian borders).
The guard also seemed concerned/confused to think that we’d be running back to Bilopilia (another 15km in the hot sun). He was also concerned that Brian and I were hurt because we were both wearing knee braces to help us run comfortably. He told us to wait, so we waited. Soon, a van came through and he stopped them to talk to them. Then turned to us and said in English, “Please.” So we went over to him. He wanted us to get in the van to hitch a ride back to Bilopilia. So we did.
If the border guard tells you to get into a van with strangers and leave the border crossing, you do. That’s just the way life works.
It was a great run and a great story, but I have to admit that I wasn’t able to step over into Russia, illegally.