Société Ukraine

The walking-in-the-metro tax

Old habits never really die, so it seems. After a few months living in Kyiv, I had been happily surprised to notice that policemen seemed less eager to “talk to me” than last time. During my first visit, back in fall 2008, I remember spending six days in Ukraine (Kovel, Kyiv, Lviv) and going through six police controls, one each day. Randomly unfolding the city map to check where I was lost seemed a reason good enough for a pair of policemen to come down to me and my French-looking friends. Of course, a passports check would reveal a problem, to which they luckily had a constructive and inexpensive solution. A regular scheme, followed by endless talks to make them understand that, no, they wouldn’t get anything from us, not even Polish zlotys.

I moved back to Kyiv in April, and I did not encounter such a problem for a few months. Surprise. Apart from a few stories heard here and there, I even came to think that the situation globally “improved”, so to speak. The official explanation being: police forces are getting nice and clean for the upcoming Euro 2012 championship. Some of them are even said to learn English…

Well, this morning marked the end of this nice illusion. Walking out of the “Klovska” metro station, I was greeted by a young and cheerful policeman, obviously bored, who warmly invited me to present my documents. They turned out not to be convincing enough and he had to make a phone call to “someone” to make sure I was more French than I look like. He was just doing his job, as he emphasized several times. And I, as a metro user, I was just due to financially express my admiration to the technical wonder. Or reward him with a present for being so cheerful. Or apologize for the spotted backpage of my passport. I don’t really know, I probably didn’t get that part right. I skip the details of the 10-minute long conversation, as it is mere “SOS – Same Old Shit”. But to keep giving the phone number of the embassy; pretend not to understand and not to care; never enter alone the dark smelly room he calls “office”; … it all sounds nicely familiar. Yep, I am back where I thought I had moved in. Good to know.

Journaliste et voyageur, je suis un Européen d'origine française et observateur insatiable de la composition, décomposition et recomposition du continent. Depuis 2011 en Ukraine, je suis en permanence sur les routes, afin de suivre les évolutions et révolutions qui secouent ce pays. L'occasion d'affiner mon regard sur les différences - et ressemblances - qui font cette autre Europe.

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