The German journalist is visiting us on Thursday, accompanied by his Romanian friend FU. The friend is of Ukrainian descent, speaks an ancient Bukovinian Ukrainian, and is an entrepreneur in Vatra Dornei: He owns a rest stop, a boarding house and a small factory where wooden bungalows are manufactured. He also feels connected to Czernowitz, his grandfather graduated from the law faculty at the Romanian “Universitatea Regele Carol I din Cernăuți” in the interwar period. We like each other right away and no longer have to worry about where the relief supplies can be reloaded on Holy Saturday in Vatra Dornei. Because then a trip there is planned, a team of friends from Dresden will come there with the next aid delivery. What a stroke of luck.
The journey to Vatra Dornei begins at seven in the morning. An acquaintance brings me two packages and a cooler with medication for his relatives in Romania, two sisters who fled from Kyiv and are now in Romania. They want to come to Vatra Dornei with their car and pick up the things.
We arrive early Saturday afternoon. I go into the service area, the women are already waiting. After getting to know each other, a question immediately arises: Is it realistic to find a driver who will drive the two of them back to Roman in their car? The woman who drove is in bad shape, too many serpentine roads, and she has difficulty walking. Your sister doesn’t have a driver’s license. I have no idea, it might not be easy to find someone on Holy Saturday who would be willing to drive 200 km in someone else’s car and then somehow return. Otherwise they would like to give me money that their relative in Chernivtsi should pay into their Ukrainian account. It is a relatively large amount, apart from us there are only two men at a distant table, I assess the possible risks as low and count it at the table. One of the girls watches me for a while and asks, “Mom, what does the aunt do with our money?”
Outside in the parking lot we unload, jars of baby food, boxes and sacks of rice. It’s drizzling, cheerful Bukovina-Romanian music is playing in the background. After reloading, our group of eight is invited to lunch. Because there is not much going on, there is only one cook in the service area. The idea of the traditional distribution of roles is not very different in Romania than in the Ukraine: As the only female person in the Ukrainian group, I am used as a kitchen hand. F. sets me tasks: wash and cut the vegetables, distribute plates and cutlery, and the main course – the delicious specialty “tochitură moldoveneasca” – Serve when ready. I will now also consistently as “doamnă Oxanochka”, which I take as an expression of familiarity and I have to smile about it. F. is now taking care of the women with children. They should now rest in his apartment, later he would look for a driver. Two men from our group help to bring the woman and her walker in. Afterwards, our driver admires this gesture from F.: He lets people he sees for the first time in his apartment and hands them the key.
After a sumptuous meal (and drink) we head back to Chernivtsi. There is a warm farewell, F. says we should definitely come back, we promise to follow his invitation. He tells me I should stay there for the moment, he would find me a good man with a farm, I would have a nice life there. His sympathy is touching, I can really use a good man, but not necessarily a farm, we only sold our grandmother’s three years ago, I don’t have any professional reorientation plans at the moment. The trip back goes well, after a small argument at the border with the Romanian border police officer – who is very lenient given the lack of documents – we are in the Ukraine. At the third gas station there is finally diesel, limited, but after our driver has explained that we are bringing an aid delivery from Romania, he is allowed to fill up. It’s evening and tomorrow is Easter – so the relief supplies will be sorted and distributed on Monday, we can also celebrate one day.
When I hand over the money on Easter morning, I learn that F. actually found a driver on the same day, so that the women and girls arrived back at their Romanian home in the evening. If that isn’t a miracle I guess. Christ is risen.
Read more episodes of this column here.