Going to Ukraine for Euro 2012, I was surprised by certain changes from previous visits and there was a distinct difference at the border. There was a real international make up when it came to the passengers on the Warsaw bus and having been ushered to the front of the queue, the Polish border guards took the passports and quickly gave them back, the Ukrainians, who had been brought up to break passengers by the art of staring, gave stern looks to each and every passenger, looking for the slightest wiggle of suspicious ear. Polish, Ukrainians, Brits, Americans and Germans are common place on this border, the Swedes - also in their droves in campervans in the adjacent queue were to be expected but the presence of dark skinned Dutch and a South Korean appeared to stall our progress. Everyone sat patiently on the bus but nature called and I had to illegally nip over the border to relieve myself in the nearest toilet. After that, I could have waited all night if need be.
Having been taken off the bus, the South Korean was allowed back on as the border guards had clearly got to grips with the countries visa-free rules. The list of eligible countries often changes, so its little wonder the confusion. An hour and a half later and a drive through disinfectant and we were away. The most notable difference was the presence of an English speaking border guard and the lack of immigration cards, a time consuming procedure that involved filling in your purpose for visiting and address of the place you were staying at. The adjacent queue enabled people with EU passports going to the football matches to go through quickly in the special "Euro 2012" queue. Whilst this was undoubtedly temporary, I believe it will speed up future border crossings in the long-term as well and don't foresee it completely returning to the older levels of bureaucracy.
On the return leg, we were hitch hiking and having been dropped off at the border, had to get a ride cross. A line of trucks were present but as they are only allowed to take one passenger and there were two of us, the chances of getting one to take us under the watchful eye of the border guards were quite slim.
There were no cars and a blonde Ukrainian girl was also waiting for a car too. A local, she was without doubt, a so-called 'ant'. An 'ant' is a local term for a person able to cross the border up to 6 times a day, usually travelling with the legal amount of duty free or Ukrainian goods (and sometimes an illegal amount too) The contraband is then usually sold on in a car park once the border has been crossed. A Ukrainian couple in an old Mercedes stopped to converse with her and were somehow duped into taking us by the border guards instead. They weren't exactly reluctant, mind you. Crossing the border takes a bit longer with Ukrainian citizens but they were well known to the border guards, having some business to attend to on the other side and when they finally got round to us, we were quickly on our way.
Coming back in to Poland, the border guards gave us a quick glance but the whole process of crossing over from when we got in the car, took no longer than 20 minutes. Late on a Sunday night, it was rather on the quiet side, just as well that one of the border guards took us to Chelm where we could continue hitch hiking to Warsaw then!