Jozef Tinka, SME   4 January 2015 13:51  189288749 089709

The idea that a person from the western part of Slovakia has of travelling to Ukraine is based on prejudices that in real life have completely different status quo.

Stereotype one. Traveling to Ukraine is dangerous. Armed military there are wandering the streets, and people do not feel safe.

We recently participated in the conference in Uzhgorod National University. There were two of us. And it was the most numerous foreign delegation. The prejudice certainly gives effect. Negative effect. We were in a quiet city where nothing reminds of a military conflict, life here goes the usual way, people smile, work, do business, and are engaged in friendly discussions in coffee shops.

Stereotype two. You cannot cross the Ukrainian border without giving a bribe and waiting a few hours.

On the way to Ukraine on the Slovak side we were waiting for almost an hour (apparently, it was a shift change), and on the Ukrainian side we spent only five minutes...

Soon we were going back. Again, on the Ukrainian side we were delayed for almost ten minutes. Nobody bothered us with redundant checks, questions, suspicions and mockery.

Before Slovak customs, we were waiting for four hours. Four hours! I am not going to tell how powerful cars overtake and displace others, cutting in ahead of the line; how cars from the Slovak side go up and down the empty lane "for diplomatic vehicles", or many other "little things" that stimulate much more adrenaline in a man than a twenty-year-old nude model.

But I can not but to say one thing - Slovak customs officers wage private war with Ukrainians!

There are some travellers who for some unknown reason have privileges! Almost without waiting. There are some custom officers, going from one side of the customs to another, carrying some papers, then call one of the vehicles from the line, sink into the luggage compartment, then tell the passengers to come out of the vehicle, checking every inch of the interior, then analyze something and finally - to the delight of dozens of travellers - raise the barrier.

What does it suppose to mean, Mr. Minister Kalynyak? Go there, please, stop this customs war!

Or otherwise if we want to really help Ukraine, let's finish this torture on the border in Vysne Nemecke. Let's give people the opportunity to travel with dignity, comfort, with a sense of joy. It is also about money. If we teach Slovaks to travel to Transcarpathia, we give Ukrainians money not as gift, but as the price for their hospitality and good nature. An vice versa, many Ukrainians would be happy to come to Slovakia. And spent their money. As one of my colleague, university lecturer and a big fan of Slovakia confessed to me; "I would be glad to go, say, to Kosice, to see the temple of St. Alzbeta, the historic part of the town, to have some good beer, to show children the beauty of your country. But when I think about five hours on the border, I decide not to subject my child to that. On the Hungarian border, there are no problems - we cross the border, and customs officers wave us with a smile..."

Ukrainians are not the Mafia - the third stereotype - not the Nazis, not sheeple just waiting to consume everything to the west of their borders. Ukrainians are our people! Ukrainians are nice, friendly, hospitable and especially humane people who appreciate everything humane.

So, if we want to help Ukraine, and at the same time - ourselves, we must get rid of stereotypes. Our establishment must stop the private war of the customs office in Vysne Nemecke! We must introduce a real local border traffic regime between the two countries and at the same time create the conditions for Ukrainians to be able to travel to Kosice for a beer and on trips to sacred sites, for Slovaks to know that Transcarpathia is a good tourist region. For the Ukrainian border area it will be the help, which I think will be equal to the reverse supply of gas...