A day at the Ukrainian border

Short moments of big emotions.

Jacob Hensler
4 min readApr 3, 2022


The refugee camp in a sports hall.

In the camp

I stand in a hall packed with thousands of Ukrainian refugees who are trying to get some sleep after fleeing from their home country. Plastic bags are piling up in the hallway, filled with the only goods they could save from the terror. I sense fear, uncertainty, and sadness that is filling up the air. A little boy puked into the isle but everybody is just too busy with themselves. The man in the neon vest is shouting different country names in Ukrainian, the places of new homes for the people who got robbed of their old ones. Busses are heading to Italy, Germany, or the Netherlands. The volunteer is advertising each destination like a travel agent. Go to Italy, he says. Warm weather and beautiful beaches. Family's have to decide within minutes where they want to live from now on. While the husband is fighting for his life in war. It’s absurd but real.

At the checkpoint

The sound of sirens is breaking the silence of the dawn. The flashing blue lights are caught by the tears of a woman who just crossed the border to Poland. Her little son is holding her hand. I go onto my knees and give him a chocolate bar. The smile forgets all the pain he has been through the last 20 days leaving Kyiv. At least for a small fraction of time. More tears are running down the mother’s cheeks. I can see that those are happy tears. Seeing humans from all over the world coming together to help where other humans need help can be quite overwhelming. She looks at me. Both her mouth and eyes say: “Thank you”. Now she and her son are safe but the husband is still fighting to see them again.

The polish-ukrainian border checkpoint.

In the bus

We receive the news that a bus with around 100 refugees will arrive. Those people haven’t eaten for two days. Driving in a dark bus so that the Russian army cannot spot and shoot them. Warm lunch boxes are made by Brazilians, Canadians, Austrians, and Italians. When the bus arrives we get only a few minutes to hand them the food as they need to catch a connecting bus in Warsaw. The bus starts driving backward, but not every refugee has gotten a lunch box yet. Volunteers are running after the bus, carrying food in their hands. The bus driver stops with a smile. All people get a warm meal. When the bus leaves while honking the horn, the passengers are waving with gratitude. Applause is celebrating the pure act of humanity. This time a tear is running down my cheek.

The kitchen of the checkpoint.

In the tent

The sound of the violin is fixing the emotional gap of sadness. For a few moments, magic replaces the dusty air in the tent. Refugees, volunteers, and firefighters are quietly enjoying the play of the girl from Kyiv. Not only the mother is fighting with her emotions. The melody ends, and the audience starts cheering. Releasing all the tension at once. Just a couple of weeks ago, the violin girl would have never imagined being performing in a refugee camp in Poland after losing everything but her violin and her love for music. Her siblings are joining the stage next to the heater, raising their voices to be heard by us. We will take those tones of war with us in our hearts to never forget them again.

The checkpoint.

With the hero

She sleeps in a car, drives supplies to Ukrainian hospitals, and brings back refugees to Poland. She gave up her life to rescue others’ lifes. The stories and videos she shares surpass my ability to understand. An Ukrainian family father knockin on her car window at 6 am begging her to take his wife and kids safely across the border. Trusting a stranger with a neon vest. Not knowing if he will ever see his family again. An act of true trust into the goodwill of humanity. Another story is about a queue of women with children waiting outside of a bakery to get some food. Surrounded by the ruins of their beloved home. A Russian jeep approaches and soldiers are jumping out of it. They start shooting into the crowd. Innocent civilians were murdered. This is the real crime, the real pain that flushes the world with darkness. Now, volunteers are also targets for the Russians as dead volunteers destroy all the hope thats left. With every more minute driving on ukrainian ground, she is risking her own life. Normal civilians becoming the real heros.

The border crossing to Poland.



Jacob Hensler

I can never stop thinking…let me think out loud!