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The gates to the EU

Polish-German border, 28 June 2003

Polish-German border

28 June 2003

Coaches and trucks form massive queues on approach to border control. The bumpy road has improved somewhat towards the border still inside Poland. Pine forests rise on either side. Passengers sit near the grass waiting, catching some summer air - or filling their lungs with smoke. They get back on their coach when it finally moves forward for passport control.

A German border guard climbs on board and moves slowly towards the back, collecting everyone's passport one by one, folded open at the photo.

He eventually leaves to scan them in the border post building. Everyone waits nervously. Will they be the one pulled off and denied access to the gates of the EU?

After some nail biting time the German comes back and orders some unfortunate souls off. Probably Russians.

The coach travels onwards into Germany, the sun going down now. Already the road look better. Smoother. Modern. So different from the rickety decay beyond the Eastern border. Like Swiss cheese Poles say, full of holes.

It is dark now. The coach moves on through the night. Illuminated billboards arranged in a triangle on giant metal posts flash by. Advertising some German beer.

The Poles on board are sweaty, dirty and tired now. It's impossible to sleep with a stiff neck and sore back.

Their destination is far away London. Probably for illegal work in some bar. To slip off the radar.

Every 3 or 4 hours the coach stops at services and the travellers troop in to use the toilets and possibly buy something in the shop. One restaurant has some dinosaur figure on the roof. The buffet is darkened. Minimal lighting. The passengers must be careful with time now. The coach may move on and leave them in the middle of nowhere in the night, abandoned.

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