Saturday, 24 December 2011

Home Sweet Home

I am home at last, and just in time for Christmas!

The horses are now legally in Ukraine, at least for the time being. As little Zorbee was having veterinary treatment for an oedema, we submitted an ancillary medical report to Chop customs which I delivered Friday a week ago on the way home. Natalya Radonov emailed me shortly after to say that some military gentlemen had been round to inspect them and all was OK. This should give them about a month's extension, but I still have to be told the the exact date. In the meantime they are having a series of blood tests in the hope that I may still be able to get them into the EU.

While I am away they are in the capable hands of Zhenya, shown below with Hua.

Hua and I set off for home as soon as we had submitted the report, but even our journey home was not without stress. It took us 15 hours to cross the border into Slovakia, where I was fined 700 euros as I had not realised that one needed to buy a prepaid box to drive on the toll roads, we were stopped by German police for driving too slow on the autobahn, and then Hua was detained in Calais and refused entry to the UK even though he has a Canadian passport. We had to find a hotel for the night (and a restaurant with a large carafe of wine) while we decided our next course of action. Hua has taken the train to Paris, where I hope he will be able to sort things out and come over to Wales after Christmas Day.

We also had to drive through snowstorms on the way home, but Natalya says that this is good luck so perhaps 2012 will be a better year!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


On Monday we put in a formal appeal to Chop customs for an extension of stay for the horses. We are now being helped by Igor Parkhomenko, the Managing director in Ukraine for the French freight company and he has submitted the same in Kiev.
Today Natalia (and Igor) spent most of the day trying to find out what progress has been made. Eventually Natalia got through to Chop, only to be told that they had no knowledge of the appeal and no record of the case reference number! It was only after talking to them for about an hour that they finally discovered the appeal and have now logged it into their computer system. They also told her it would take about 15 days to process, until she pointed out that in two days time the horses will be illegally in the country. She has now got the name of an official (they declined to provide me with one when I submitted the appeal) and will contact them tomorrow for progress.
All very depressing, and I was only cheered up when Igor burst out laughing when I told him the saga!  I think I need to develop a Ukrainian attitude to Soviet style bureaucratic circumlocution.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Snow Wish

We are back in Ukraine! But not without setbacks, and it is not the end of our problems by a long shot, as I have only been given 10 days (effectively now 8 days) to get the horses out of the country.

Dr Halasz came to me on Monday to say that Hungarian customs had managed to communicate with one of the chiefs on the Ukrainian side, and I would be allowed into Ukraine so long as I paid a refundable transit deposit for the horses. We packed up rapidly and set off hopefully for the fifth time, but on reaching the other side, were once again refused entry. This time the veterinary certificate was apparently no longer valid again. And they had no knowledge of any communication between the Hungarian customs at Zahony and the Ukrainian customs at Chop.

I had reception on my laptop, and quickly went to email Dr Halasz for the name of the chief who had given permission. In doing so I found an email from someone who has been pulling strings behind the scenes and who had contact details for the chief at Chop. He had apparently been instructed to help. This had a magical effect, and although we had to wait a further 18 hours until the next day, by late Tuesday evening we were driving out of the border post, but not counting our chickens until we were some way down the road.
Waiting at the border.

However, the downside has been that I was only given 10 days to get the horses out of Ukraine. As this included the day waiting at the border post, and yesterday driving them out to the stables where they are temporarily staying, this effectively leaves a week. We are trying to get an extension, as this is not enough time to sort out arrangements. I cannot drive them to Russia myself as I do not currently have a visa, and sorting out the logistics of using a transport company, checking the documents are valid, and finding somewhere in Russia to take them will no doubt take longer than a week. The FEI are also looking at another possible option, but I do not yet know the outcome. I think they are annoyed that I jumped the gun in crossing the border, but I had to make a quick decision in a stressful situation.

In the meantime we are holed up at a holiday resort in the Carpathians, courtesy of our Uzhgorod contacts. The horses are in loose boxes and I have room with hot shower, TV (no English!) and this lovely view below over the restaurant to the hills.....
This was the same view this morning!....

Natalia tells me it is an Ukrainian tradition to make a wish when the first snow of winter arrives. I doubt if there is any need to guess what my wish will be!

If you want to stay at a little resort in the Carpathians, Raina-Polyana has large comfortable rooms with en suite facilities, restaurant, billiard room, outdoor swimming pool (summer) sauna, banya, and the attached stables where horses are for hire, and where Bolashak and little Zorbee are staying at present. See for photos and rates, even if you cannot understand the Russian text!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Horse Houdini

We have now been here exactly three weeks - I could have crossed Hungary in this time!
But everyone is still working very hard to get us out of here, and with the help of the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation we have been looking into the possiblity of hiring an Ukrainian transport company to take the horses to Russia. However, the FEI have also written to the Ukrainian Min of Ag, and we are mainly waiting to see how they respond next week, before taking any other definite action.
So it is another fun-packed weekend in our home sweet home by the muck bins behind the Hungarian border vet buildings. But as you can see there is a nice little garden which will be a plus if we are still here next summer.
Thankfully I have been able to have another shower, so I am not too stinking - apart from my trousers - and my jacket - and my socks. And at least the day temperature has been above freezing today - I know because it has been raining.

The horses are well, if understandably bored. Bolashak keeps managing to unclip his lead rope and dive round into the passage in front of the stalls to polish off the spare hay. Luckily he is very adept at backing up round a very tight corner when we extricate him, although Hua has to pull him by the tail.
Here is the corner below - you have to admit he must be pretty sensible and athletic for a horse over 15 hands!
We have now tied him up with two lead ropes, and here he is looking distinctly miffed - is that evidence hanging from his mouth? Get out of that, Houdini! Just a pity he can't get us out of here.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


We have now reached a state of complete impasse.
On Monday Rowena emailed the new certificate of transit application with change of journey plan and authorised by Kiev, and we had it printed out in the Hungarian customs vet service office. We loaded up the horses and crossed the bridge to Ukraine customs for the third time. But it was not to be third time lucky. The veterinary officer told us the photocopied certificate was not valid because it had been issued in Kazakhstan not Ukraine. This was although it was the exact copy of the one we presented last week that we were told was acceptable apart from the journey plan (which we have now corrected). In vain did we tell him that he needed to phone the Kiev office and follow up the case reference number as was required. We were forced to return to the Hungarian side with our tails between our legs.

The following day we had another go. This time, miracle of miracles, there was absolutely no trouble with the certificate. 'Super' cried the veterinary official as he loudly banged official stamps all over my original rejected veterinary certificate. This was no doubt due to the efforts
of Nataliya Radonovskaya on my behalf in Kiev. A big sigh of relief.

But unfortunately not for long. After a lot of hanging around, meetings and discussion, the Chop custom officer decided in his wisdom to reject our entry for a seemingly spurious reason. Apparently individuals cannot transport horses through Ukraine, although I originally entered Ukraine openly and specifically with that intention, and Ukraine customs allowed me to do so. If they had not, I would not be in the Catch 22 situation I am in. As far as I am aware, it was with the full knowledge of the central office in Kiev, though Chop customs now claim that it was a mistake by the border point where I entered. They say the present decision has been made by someone in Kiev.
Interestingly one of the vets on the Hungarian side says he is aware of several individuals who have crossed the border here with horses, so I don't know what the problem is with us. Possibly we were not forthcoming with a 'gesture of friendship'.
At one point in the proceedings they brought up the requirement to pay a refundable deposit of 40 percent of the value of the horses on entry. I was already aware of this requirement which had not been enforced on our initial entry, although I had the money ready. We dug out the paperwork showing the original value of the horses and were willing to pay, but for some reason this option seemed to be withdrawn. We were also told to get a carnet ATA from Hungary, but we have since been told by Hungarian customs that this is not possible in any case as the horses have never officially entered Hungary.
After a lot of haggling the vet officer appeared to give in and give permission, to the extent that I filled in a customs declaration form, but when we drove out, we suddenly found ourselves guided back across the bridge to Hungary. In vain did we go back and plead to the new shift who had just taken over, apparently the decision had been made.

We have now spent nearly three weeks in a freezing (literally!) lorry, but the bottom line is that if I cannot get the horses out to Russia via Hungary, they will have to be put down.

I have been emailing frantically to contact everyone I know who could help to resolve this desperate situation. The Ukrainian Equestrian Federation are now on the case, thanks to the efforts of the International Equestrian Federation, and the British consulate are also helping. But any relevant contacts are most welcome - I am trying to attack from all angles. There should be a press release today.