Budapest, Hungary to Chop Ukraine
Trip Start Dec 16, 2007
28Trip End Jan 11, 2008
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Today we're off to Ukraine. The four of us leave the Ibis Centrum Hotel in the Budapest Central District and head by Metro to the Nyugati train station where our train is supposed to leave for Chop, Ukraine.
A train trip gone bad - and good!
We're there in plenty of time - it's only 4 metro stops to Nyugati. We go to the International Ticket Sales to buy our ticket. It's never REALLY clear how to get to Chop in the most efficient manner. The only time I've done this without incident was on the trip when Katherine Rowland was with us in 2006. Otherwise there's always some kind of glitch.
At the sales window the clerk was courteous...which is a big improvement, but he also was not quite sure what train to take. That's a danger sign. He sold us four round trip tickets from Budapest to Chop. But, as has been my issue before, WHICH train do we take? He told us he THOUGHT it was be track 13, but, not sure and to check the train went to Zahoney, the last stop in Hungary. Well, we got there and a man just told us that that train, an Intercity Express DID go to Chop. Well, it didn't....just part of the way. Since we were told that to check for the train to Zahoney and he wasn't sure of the track, I was reluctant to board it and checked of other trains to Zahoney. There WAS one on track 11 five minutes later. I thought that this was safer. Well, as the train was about to pull out, we made the wrong choice. We got on the slower train even though it got all the way to Zahoney. FRUUSStration! Last time this happened and I barely made the train to Chop from Zahoney. This time we were guaranteed to miss it. Oh well! There is still one more train to cross the border, but we have more than a four hour layover in Zahoney. That's where we are at this writing. We were able to use Dan Harper's French cell phone to call Ivan Yurishko to let him know would be in at 9:17 PM instead of 4:52 PM. Not much lost except for my determination to get this route right. I get the feeling that the Hungarians, even personnel at the train station don't think much of travel between Hungary and Ukraine.
But, the upside has been to spend a lot more time getting better acquainted with the Harpers. Dan is a great logistics person who is always thinking ahead with practical thoughts. Cindy is great with preparation to do things in Ukraine. I find that she has a degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. Just perfect for what we need. She has actually been teaching ESL to a group of French children where she lives in Cherbourg and has gotten some practice.
There was a little kiosk that said BUFET. We order chicken gyros and enjoyed them very much. At first the lady at the counter thought we were asking about Euros. But, we got it straightened out that it would be gyros. All day we've only had snacks.
What do we do with more than a four hour layover at a Hungarian train station? Bev suggests that we play 500, her favorite card game. And so we do.
Finally, we get on the one train car from Zahoney to Chop.
The train from Zahoney to Chop takes about 15 minutes. It's filled with Ukrainians. The train is only one car. Obviously not much traffic between these two cities and it looked like it was mostly Ukrainians who had gone to shop in Hungary.
Ivan was reliably waiting for us at the infamous dark Chop Train Station on our 9:17 pm arrival. There is a one hour time change between Ukraine and Hungary, although much of this part of Ukraine still uses the European time. Going through passport control and customs is infinitely easier than it used to be. The officials are friendly and accommodating-even joking with us. The passport officials were women who were intrigued by the arrival of Four Americans. The reception hall is as dark and grim-looking as ever, however..
Being holiday season there are quite a few decorative lights throughout Chop. Ivan came for us in VW mini-van that he said is now owned by his son Ivan. Little Ivan is his owns a construction company called "Orienda" and a printing company called "Shtrumer." I call him the Kinko's of Ukraine. He arranges for our United Church of God booklets and Bible Study Courses to be printed here and shipped to Estonia and Sweden.
As we drive towards Vinogradov Ivan and I catch up on things over the past year. For both of us it's been a very busy year in our regular work and we've neglected to stay on top of our personal connections. His daughter was married two weeks ago and I really wish I could have been here then, but because of my work commitments with the Council of Elders and other things it simply didn't work out for us to come here then.
Ukraine's economy is rising. The roads here at the border are just as good and smooth as Europe's. Hungary will become part of the Schengen European border on the 21st of December and once you enter Hungary from anywhere you are free to roam about all of the European Unioni without further passports. He said that in 2012 Ukraine is scheduled to go to the Euro currency. Also, Hungary has joined the EU and he said that new border with EUROPE will now be 60 miles from his home. It is evident that things are picking up here with the amount of traffic and a general sense of things looking better. One thing we notice, too, is that our dollar is worth less and that is a nagging negative as we wonder if this decline will continue and how will this impact our future ability to work and travel to this area.
In an hour and a quarter we arrive at Vasyl and Irina Polichko's place. They are at the newly built (actually it's taken 11 years) home that has become the new orphan care center and hopefully in the future a school for Christian learning. He wants to call it the Christian Learning Center.
For Dan and Cindy Harper this is all a new experience. As we arrive we all kneel and pray and thank God for brining us here safely. They are always so sincere and intense wit their prayers. A few of them bow to the ground.
We then have dinner. No matter what time it is, you must eat dinner when you come to someone's home. It was about 11:30 PM. No matter. We eat. They served a corn dish, potatoes with a sauce and cole slaw. Very tasty. All accompanied by compote made from elder berries, plums and other fruits.
Since being here last time at this time of year, the Polichko's have started a full-time orphan care center. It is managed by a young couple just married last May. His name is Vasya and the wife is Maria. The last few times I visited they were always with the Polichko's helping with the children. He was the keyboard player, driver and overall helper. She worked in the kitchen. Now they are married and live at the home and care for the starter group of full-time children which is currently seven boys. They quietly opened the door to the boys room to show them sleeping away.
This service is in addition to the 30-40 day-only service for what have called the Vinogradov Street Children that LifeNets has helped support through the generous donations of of our California friends since 2001.
They told us about the boys and their background. There are two sets of brothers among the seven. In one case, a father murdered his wife with an ax and the boys saw their dead mother. Then the father tried to hang himself, but his mother-in-law cut him down and he survived. Terrible story.
Another set of brothers were orphaned and cared for by elderly grandparents who simply could not cope. So, they are here. The ages of the boys ranges from 9-12. They are planning to expand this service. The government and city has been gracious in providing support for this program for five of the boys. They do not provide support for the Street Children's Program-that has become a LifeNets project.
Dinner ended about 12:30 am and we stood around talking for almost 45 minutes more. Dan Harper has the most questions...good ones. A question was asked about how this place got started and built. Vasyl Polichko launched into a narrative how a Christian Mission in Switzerland initially helped them get started, but could not continue and they through a series of miracles have come to develop this place to what it is now. It is really remarkable. Vasyl and Irina are remarkable in their resolve. Vasyl is almost blind, but carries on as though he's 30 years old. I have great admiration for his tenacity to work hard and make things happen and it's been a pleasure working with him.
They are very happy with the presence of Dan and Cindy and the prospect of her helping with the children by teaching English. This can be a tremendous fit.
We finally got to bed about 1:30 am...ready for more adventures in the next few days.....
Where I stayed
Ibis Centrum Hotel