On 11 of June, 2017 group of Ukrainian activists, analysts, experts, artists and journalists conducted the first trip with crossing border of the EU country without visa.
Already at 6 AM of June 11 journalists started to gather to film and interview few bypassers at the Central Railway Station in Kyiv.
At 6:30 briefing has started on the platform №1 with participation of Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Jan Pieklo, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Republic of Poland, and Jurgis Vilcinskas, Head of Press and Communication at the EU Delegation in Ukraine.
Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze: Europe has actually recognized that European integration of our country is irreversible. Our joint work has been recognized. We proved both ourselves and the world that we can reach ambitious goals, and I believe that this experience will inspire us for new achievements.
Iryna Sushko: We would like to celebrate this long awaited day, and not only celebrate, but to share visions on past and future of freedom of movement in the world. Right for free movement is more and more often threatened by security challenges that force states to new restrictions and provoke widespreading of isolationism, xenophobia, closing borders.
I am happy to state that Ukraine and EU together are able to counteract this tendency, having introduced free travelling despite agression of Russian Federation that seemed to make western borders locked for our citizens.
Ukrainian and European officials were taking pictures with tour participants and giving comments to numerous journalists.
At the start of voyage passengers of “visa-free train” received souvenir tickets and delivered short speeches.
In Lviv vice rector of Ukrainian Catholic University Myroslav Marynovich and Iryna Magdysh joined the journey.
Photo: Sergii Stukanov, Hromadske Radio
Director of Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation sociologist Iryna Bekeshkina conducted blitz-poll of experts, having presented its results during dinner in Poland.
Having passed Lviv we made a flashmob in near carriages, taking pictures with banner and other passengers.
Ukrainian border and custom control was very quick.
Polish boreder guards were quick and polite as well.
At the railway station in Przemyśl train was met by joint Ukrainian-Polish delegation of officials and journalists, including Ukrainian Ambassador in Poland Andrii Deshchytsya, General Consul of Ukraine in Liublin Vasyl Pavliuk, Przemyśl deputy mayor Grzegorz Hayder.
Andrii Deshchytsya: Welcome to Poland, welcome to Europe!
Ambassador commemorated citizens of Ukraine who died in fight for democracy and against Russian agression, and thanked to Polish people for help and support on world scene:
“It is a historical day for Ukraine and Poland. We become closer to Europe. This is what we fighted for on Maidan. I want you to remember those who can not be here today – heroes of Maidan and warriors who defend us from Russian agression. We are still to face a lot of routine everyday work for approachment to EU. Our next step is EU membership. But maybe we should follow way of Poland – to enter NATO first and then – to join EU”.
Grzegorz Hayder: I hope that introducing visa-free regime will become next important step to rapprochement of our two peoples.
Olexandr Sushko: “Visa waiver is a fall of symbolic Berlin wall. It is not an issue of travels only, it is also a question of self realization, professional growth, communication”
Some participants returned back straight after arrival. For example, writer Andriy Kurkov, who will be presenting his new novel “Schengen story” in Odesa next day.
Other passengers moved to near town of Krasiczyn, where they took part in dinner together with Ukrainian diplomats.
Під час вечері учасники ділилися історіями, спогадами та міркуваннями про шлях України до безвізового режиму, майбутні перспективи. During dinner participants shared stories, memories and visions about Ukrainian way to visa-free regime and future prospectives.
Olexandr Sushko talked about start of movement to visa-free regime:
“Before 2003 interest in visa issue was purely academical, not practical. Western Europe was something far away and unachievable, and closest neighbours on the west had their borders opened for Ukrainians. The breaking point was 2003, when Poland introduced visa regime.
After that idea of visa facilitation has appeared. Ukraine was the first to sign such agreement in 2008. Serbia did it later. Actually we paved the way for a huge cluster of countries.
So, in 2008 another idea appeared – to demand from EU a list of criteria, implementation of which would allow to introduce visa-free regime. We presented this idea to Europeans, and at first they seemed to ignore it, but later, in 2010, we have got Visa Liberalisation Action Plan.
Today, when we have already get visa-free regime, we should find next big idea, because nothing moves without big ideas”
Myroslav Marynovych talked about prospective of EU membership:
“I remember the moment when we had open space with Poland, and than it was closed. Surely, I could travel after that, but I had a feeling of a barrier. Today I don’t have. To tell the truth, maybe, it is a “heresy”, but I am afraid Ukraine should not enter the EU until our country will feel itself as a whole organism. We should work a lot on ourselves, our self-awareness. We should overcome huge gaps in legislation. Eastern Germany survived this collapse, but we have risk we will not survive. We should adopt cultural standards. We and Europe still do not speak same language. When we communicate to Europe we have to, excuse me such comparison, to waden or tighten our railways. We can not just ride to Europe” (Quoted by Tetyana Katrychenko article).
Full photoreport (102 pictures)
Collection of videos about the journey:
The event was organized by civic organization «Europe without barriers» and partners from online news outlet “European pravda” and Institute of World Policy, who were struggling for visa-free regime.
Under the auspices of Ukrainian National Platform of Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum with the support from Civic Synergy project financed by European Union and implemented by International Renaissance Foundation