Nevada County resident Blake Westman was in Ukraine late February, when he was awaken from sleep by an explosion somewhere in Kiev. It was close enough and large enough to set off car alarms. That afternoon, along with a friend and her children he began the journey to the Polish border. Blake, packed a 50 pound suitcase and 20 pound backback, left his last bag with his landlord, and headed for the metro station. Blake said residents had fled underground and every metro station was full.
But the metro trains are empty and Blake is able to make it through a transfer and meet his friend and her family.
The group is able to board a packed train heading for Levov. After an all-night ride, the group emerged from the train to an eerie sound of air raid sirens being tested.
The group was now taxed with getting from Levov to the border, about a 40 mile bus ride…but only half the group was allowed on the bus. Women and children were given priority, and then Ukranian nationals.
The group was split up.
Eventually, Blake and a Norwegian national he befriended were able to grab a taxi, but that did not fair well either. 300 dollars later, they were dropped only a few miles from where they started and they were still 30 kilometers from the border. The two were able to knock on a minivan that carried about 20 passengers, and for another 25 dollars each, they were allowed to get in. And then the long slow stop and go drive began.*
After several hours they had gone only 4 kilometers when the next shock hit. The door was flung open and the guard told Blake and the Norwegian to get out and walk.
A stroke of good fortune left just enough room for the two to get back in the van, but the trip was far from over.
For now they are back in a heated van inching towards the border. Unfortunately, the end of the ride is not at the border.