Today at the train station I met Zelensky’s teacher. That’s exactly how she introduced herself—first as Zelensky’s teacher, and only then as Alla. She is traveling back to Ukraine. She says, “Girls, one month max and you can come back home.” She says it with such confidence that it is impossible to counter her. But first Alla needs to make it to Wroclaw to visit her grandchildren.
The free direct connection to Poland has been closed for at least a week: you can get there either by regional trains and a bouquet of transfers, or for money. This is Europe’s hint that evacuation does not entail the possibility of making a step back, yet many Ukrainians want to be closer to home or to return home already.
My job today is to explain this convoluted route to those traveling to Poland. I deliver a speech to Alla that’s now drilled into my brain, about Frankfurt on the Oder, Rzepin, Warsaw, times, platforms, train numbers. The train from Frankfurt to Wroclaw isn’t regional, it requires a ticket. Alla understands this but is still determined to board this train for free. There are these types of people who will break any silly human rule in the name of a great cause, and they do it with a smile, and they get away with everything, and Alla is one of them. I know that nobody will be able to unseat her from this train, traveling to the flaming east. Alla does not need a ticket home. I show her the path to the platform and take off my orange volunteer jacket.