Nevada County resident Blake Westman was in Ukraine when an explosion signified the start of the Russian invasion, and he hastily began to get out of the country ahead of the war. The journey included an all-night train ride, and a challenging van ride involving multiple checkpoints and the threat of walking over 25 kilometers to the border. Eventually, Westman spent the second night, in freezing temperatures, with thousands of Ukranians and other foreign nationals fleeing the country and were now bottlenecked at the border to Poland. Some people even climbing the fence to get out of Ukraine.
The third day had started with the promise of getting through the border, as Blake and his Norwegian friend finally passed beneath an archway. The men thought they were in Poland, but it was not to be. They were now in line to get processed out of Ukraine. Six more hours standing.
However, when they step outside, they find another twist.
The day was getting longer and Blake says It was the “not knowing” that was even more debilitating.
Two hours later, the two made contact with a Polish worker, and clarified they were not Ukranians. She was astonished by the American passport and Norwegian documents and they were taken to a special window.
The two travelers were officially in Poland. They followed directions to waiting transportation. They jumped on the first bus for people leaving Ukraine. They thought they might be taken to a bus or train station. But, again, another surprise. This time a pleasant one.
Seeing nothing but cots, the exhausted duo decide to stay the night.
Meanwhile the people he met along the way began arriving at the shelter. Blake began to assist them as they had helped him.
He reached out to one elderly Ukranian gentlemen who was very disoriented and did not know how to respond. Blake took care of him getting him a cot, food, and situated with the bathroom. The polish officials took it from there.
With adrenaline running out, and two and half days since he left Kiev, Blake took a few minutes for himself.