GONE TRAIN HOPPING: The first time reporter Arie Farnam set foot in the Carpathians, she did so illegally, although she protests that she was "misled, and young and naive." Arie was in the Czech Republic, on her way to study Russian in Siberia, and had decided to take the train that would cross Ukraine. She was told she could get a transit visa at the border.
"Unfortunately, the Ukrainian border guards didn't show up on the train until the first stop inside the Ukraine, the Subcarpathian town of Chop. When they discovered me already inside the country and without a transit visa, they dragged me off the train and threw me into an old-fashioned customs room with a crowd of other problem cases," she says.
An Indian diplomat who had also been detained explained to her that there had been a minor diplomatic tiff in Kiev involving American aid, and Americans were being hassled at the borders for things that would normally be no trouble.
"I was detained in a small, gray room with two guards and was not allowed to make any phone calls. The Indian diplomat gave me a worried look, and a bottle of orange soda, before he was released. I was terrified. It was my first experience with international border trouble."
Twenty hours later, Arie was suddenly deposited on a train at 2 a.m. "I soon realized that the train was heading for Romania. My only viable option was leap from the slowly moving train in Eastern Slovakia at 3 a.m. Slovak train workers found me and stopped the next train to Prague, so all ended well. I eventually did get my transit visa and reach Siberia."
Her second trip to Chop also by train was to research today's story (page 8). It also started out poorly. Suspicious that Arie and her American photographer would want to get off at this isolated stop, border guards pushed them inside the same old-fashioned customs hall. "We were forced to wait until they were sure we had missed the train we wanted to catch to Uzhgorod. Then, we were released into the clutches of a beaming Hungarian taxi driver."
David Clark Scott