crossing borders

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The train runs. An old Moldavian train from the last century, at least your age, bedsheets stiff and threadbare, washed by the sweat of bolshevik travelers. Anatoly, an Ukrainian born 50 year old engineer, who works for Jamal, a Russian airline, is on the way back home to visit his mother who lives on a rent of 1500 griwnas, approximately 60 Swiss francs a month. The afternoon dies in the birch woods under a sleepy sky. Anatoly has brought some bottles of beer. Ukrainian beer, he underlines and fills up the cups. The train rocks you over the railroads on his punky ride from Moscow to Chisinâu. Anatoly shows picture of his hometown, the flowers in the garden of his mother, the lake, mushrooms in the woods, the summerhouse in winter, the cats and a dog. I don't know, he says, perhaps Putin wants  only the best for Russia, but the circumstances are very difficult, he has to deal with all these oligarchs and the bandits and America. He takes a sip of the warm golden beer in the cardboard cup and smiles at you. He loves Russia and he loves Ukraine and he doesn't like this patriotic attitudes which divides people. The iron wheels hammer the railroad junctions. It's the sound of goodbye followed by a long big silence. In this silence steps the border control. You hand over your passport, he browses the pages, asks your migration card and checks your back bag. A one minute check, then you can leave Russia, then you are handed over to the Ukrainian border controls. Similar procedure with another cast in the same roles. This guy wants to know where are you going and you answer to Zhmerinka. To Zhmerinka? He pulls the eyebrows up looking at you. Is there something wrong about Zhmerinka you ask. No no, he laughs, Zhmerinka is fine, but nobody goes to Zhmerinka. Now you laugh as well, and Anatoly laughs, and laughing all together you cross the border.