Polish border checkpoint held back military aid to Ukraine

Korczowa border crossing in Poland to Ukraine.
Korczowa border crossing in Poland to Ukraine. Butša: Kipras Streimikis

Volunteer Harri took five tons of armor plates for body armor from Estonia to Ukraine but simply could not cross the border between Poland and Ukraine. The border checkpoint personnel treated everybody with unusual arrogance.

«I just entered Ukraine where we tried to reach across different borders since Friday,» Harri told Postimees. He was delivering, together with the driver Ergo and his wife Marge, five tons or 1,200 protective plates to Ukraine to be used in bullet-proof vests for the Ukrainian military.

On Friday they reached the Medyka border checkpoint in Poland. The waiting line was very long. «The closer we reached the border the more complicated it was to move on,» Harri said. It was impossible to turn back in some places because the road was one-lane only.

But they met a terrible reception at the Polish border. «First of all it is absurd that the polish border guards speak no other language but Polish. There were even unwilling to help and treated everyone like criminals. We felt as if we were smuggling something illegal into Ukraine,» Harri recalled.

Korczowa border crossing in Poland to Ukraine.
Korczowa border crossing in Poland to Ukraine. Butša: Kipras Streimikis

The driver Ergo told Postimees that they reached near the Polish-Ukrainian border early on April 16, two o’clock at night. «The Ukrainian side had done everything for us to enter. It was initially all right and we reached the Polish border crossing station by eight in the morning, but then they turned us back,» Ergo sighed.

«It was about their attitude. I had never met such an attitude before. You ask the official whether they speak English and they answer «no» in Polish. How should I talk to them?» Ergo said.

He added another example of an elderly Ukrainian who had bought a car in Europe and wanted to take it to Ukraine – he had been held up at the border for three days. The men, who were taking cartridges to Ukraine wee turned back at the border checkpoint.

Ergo’s wife Marge added that the bureaucracy at the Polish border is strict. «Really, what is more important – to send the lads there bullet-proof vests or children’s clothing. They are at the front without body armor and helmets and the Polish border guards do not let the cargo pass through,» Marge wondered. «The Polish border guards were very arrogant and only shouted at us. I was shocked by all that,» bætti hún við. «We are taking help to Ukraine and the Poles turn us back. Really bad business," hún sagði.

«The most curious thing was that the Ukrainian National Guard was waiting for us at the other side with a truck so that we could hand over the plates as soon as possible,» Harri said. He added that there had never been such a situation at the border before: «I have not heard of anyone who had been treated as badly as that.»

They had to drive back to a petrol station some way away from the border to eat and bring food and drink to others.
They had to drive back to a petrol station some way away from the border to eat and bring food and drink to others. Butša: Kipras Streimikis

The Ukrainian National Guard had sent a 60-year-old driver to meet the Estonians and he had to walk to Poland, bearing documents issued by the Ukrainian army stating that the cargo must be allowed to cross the border as soon as possible. «The Poles did not care of the document and said that the Ukrainian Border Guard must call them. They called three times from Ukraine but the Poles shouted that there had not been any calls,» Harri said.

The Estonians tried to cross over to Ukraine through the Medyka checkpoint. «We were sent at the back of the queue because the Poles wanted a T1 declaration,» Harri sighed. He added that a humanitarian convoy actually did not need that. «We had to go and look for the document and drove around in the town," sagði hann.

They finally found an official to fill in the declaration. Harri said that he had simply written it by hand. «We waited at the border until we gave up and placed the cargo in a warehouse.» The Ukrainian side was to come for it and by now it should have reached the destination.

Lithuanians waited at the border in Korczowa for nearly three days to deliver cars to the Ukrainian army. The Lithuanian Arnas told Postimees that there was no normal system at the Polish border. He cited that Ukrainian refugees are allowed to cross the border but vehicles or military equipment for the Ukrainian army are not permitted. «If it is forbidden, there should be some notice or information about it; after all, it is the 21st century,» Arnas said.

Harri is unloading five tons of protection plates for Ukrainian soldiers. They had to be unloaded to take them to a warehouse because the Poles did not allow the goods to pass on to Ukraine.
Harri is unloading five tons of protection plates for Ukrainian soldiers. They had to be unloaded to take them to a warehouse because the Poles did not allow the goods to pass on to Ukraine. Butša: Erakogu

There are no catering opportunities are the border either. Arnas stayed at the Polish border with several young men, who wanted to take the vehicles over to Ukraine. They had to drive back to a petrol station some way away from the border to eat and bring food and drink to others. «It should not work that way, there should be some system of you have to wait in the line for more than a day,» the Lithuanian helper said.

He mentioned the third major problem that the Polish border guards do not speak foreign languages. They would not answer when asked how long one must wait or whether all documents are in order. He added that border guards should speak at least two languages. «In case of the Polish officials you are afraid to say anything and even to leave the vehicle because you do not know what they would do when they see you. This is my personal opinion.»