As Americans, we only need visas for Russia and Belarus. Russians need visas for everything except those two. Fortunately, Vitaly and Lena’s visas to Germany were acceptable to Poland, as they were only transiting through. However, they could only be in Poland a maximum of 24 hours. Additionally, the German visas expired midnight, Dec 23rd, but we would still be in Poland until 3:30 am, the 24th. The Polish embassy in Moscow said that would be no problem, as they were in direct route out of the country.

Keep in mind, the embassy is in Moscow, the immigration officers are on the border, in Poland. Remember that right hand, left hand thing? (By the way, never mention that to an IRS agent. BTDT. Lost my t-shirt.)

I watched Vitaly and the Polish immigration officer go back and forth. He was telling V, he and Lena had no visas and could be arrested, fined, or both. He wanted money, more than we could afford. Well, more than we were willing to pay for V. We would pay anything to keep Lena.

Wait, they wanted our luggage room. The customs officer wanted to put passengers (most likely his friends) in it. We knew this was a possibility when we purchased the tickets, as any empty seat can be resold, even if paid for. But, we trusted God to protect us. We had purchased tickets for 11 adults and 1 child, we had paid for those seats/beds.

Oh, did I mention I gave the conductor 50 Euro ($75), for helping us (ok, Lena) load the stuff? Again, he stepped in. He told the guard, “No way, I have 30 beds, and I have 30 tickets. This compartment is not available, and you cannot have it.” While all this was going on, they “forgot” about the fine for Vitaly and Lena! The train was moving and we were thanking God. But, all good things come to an end…about 100 yards down the track.

Now the fun begins, for real this time. The woman Belarusian immigrations officer got on the train, I mean, the woman Belarusian immigrations officer, with an attitude, got on the train. Her main objective, supposedly, is to be sure there are no stowaways. She looks in each cabin, under every seat, etc., making sure no one is hiding.

The first cabin was the toy room. She told Vitaly, “Take everything out! How do I know you are not hiding someone behind all the luggage?” The playhouse roof is all you could see, as it was the last thing placed in the room, a red wall blocking all the other stuff from spilling out. “Beside a person hiding in the room, this is not a freight train. You can only have 35 kg per person.” Our personal luggage weighed more than 35 kg.

As she talked and threatened, V just stood there like an idiot, looking back and forth between her and the stuff. Well, that was his description. “I was act like I didn’t know what she mean. So, I just stand there, do nothing, look stupid,” he said, laughing.

The solution, she threatened, was for us to get off the train with all the baggage, weigh it, and take the next train tomorrow. Remember, this is about 3:30 a.m., below freezing weather. She did not say what would happen to the overweight baggage.

While Vitaly talked, I watched, and Lena was translating to Donna. Donna went to Stephanie’s cabin, where they prayed for the immigration officer’s heart to soften and God’s protection. We have seen God change hearts time and again.

Stephanie went to the lady to ask for mercy since we had a child with us, explaining our circumstances, and that the things were for Russian orphans. “Will you give my 2 y.o. son a toy?” Normally, our policy is to work around bribes, somehow, and not pay them. However, this time, a toy was our best remedy.

“Certainly,” said Stephanie, as she rummaged for a particular toy. “Blessing children is our business,” she said, handing her the toy. With that, the woman turned and left the train. Problem? No problem.

We-e-e-e’r-e off to see the Wiza… Uh, oh, yeah… onward, to Moscow.

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