First thing I noticed about Krakow is that it is very nice, including the people.
The rental car guy, Kazzi, was an angel. He had been waiting to meet the lady who booked a one-way rental from Krakow to Sofia. He explained that the approval was a mistake, but he would honor it anyway—if I really needed it.
Actually, I explained, it is all very complicated and I’m not sure I really do need it, because there’s this dog, and this crippled cat, and I am supposed to pick them up at the Ukrainian border, but I’m not sure when, and I might have a ride in a taxi, but I don’t know, and could he be patient while I tried to untangle it all?
Let me see a picture of the dog, he said. That did it. Kazzi and I became fast friends, and he told me the next time I’m in town for hopefully more relaxing reasons, he’d take me to his favorite yoga class.
I easily settled into my Airbnb next to the Old Town and found a tasty falafel place for dinner. My first impressions of Krakow is that it reminds me of both Budapest and Prague—very sophisticated, stylish.
We wait. I’m here in Krakow, and Laurel (dog-owner Nathan’s sister) in Sofia, from where she’s orchestrating the mission. We wait to hear if Lana left Kyiv on Monday as planned—she didn’t. So hopefully she will leave today.
I venture out into Krakow for a walk and a little exploration. The first thing I notice are all the Ukrainian cars and a long line forming at a building across the street from my Airbnb. It appears to be a passport office. Ukrainian flags fly all over the city. Otherwise, it seems the Poles are going about their business as usual amongst impressive stone buildings, leafy squares, and cobblestone streets. There was one particularly beautiful building that looked like an old theater, so I took a walk around it and noticed a row of big luxury SUVs parked alongside it. The license plates indicated some were from Ukraine, others from Germany, and that sleek white Mercedes is from … Ohio!? How the heck did that thing get here?
Normally I would spend the whole day exploring, but I wasn’t in the mood. Everywhere I went I encountered reminders of a once thriving Jewish culture. That is, it thrived until World War II. It was emotionally overwhelming, and when I broke out in tears at the coffee shop over my Instagram feed, I decided it was best to spend a quiet day inside, waiting.
I awoke in the middle of the night from a sweaty dream in which I had become Vladamir Putin’s girlfriend. The dream had been playing out like a movie—part rom-com, part slapstick comedy, running through my head for what felt like hours. Most of the plot was me competing with the character Keely Jones (from Ted Lasso) for Putin’s interest. He wasn’t very interested in either of us, but I had convinced myself that if only I could make him like me, he’d come around to playing nice with the world.
I’m not even going to try to interpret that one.
Good news on this Wednesday morning: Lana was able to leave Kyiv and she spent the night in Vinnytsia. From her Facebook feed, it sounds like a what is usually a 4 hour trip took her all day. She is the the heroine of this story—traveling with an assortment of eight cats and dogs. I feel honored that I will be able to meet her sometime soon, and to also be a small part of this journey. This morning I will drive east to Rzeszow. I have rented a small cabin for two nights. It is bit out of town in the country, and will be a good place for Misha, and the cat, to rest a bit. Then we hope we can hire a driver, with their own car, who will take the three of us south, to Sofia.
Please considering donating to one of the many animal Ukrainian animal shelters risking their lives for these creatures.