Gregory Baranski

Hitchhiking to Asia :

Why Russia?

Opinion among Poles

I received a great amount of comments about my desire to go to Russia, whether from family or on a Facebook group when I asked for details about the visa.

Here are some of them:

Russians hate Poles, we are the enemy for them.

Russia let yourself go now, because you’ll get fucked up quickly there :)

Russia? Who needs it.

Good luck! Rent some tank preferably!

Bro, you are asking for trouble haha.

How disgusting it is to leave money in Nazi countries that are currently committing genocide in a neighboring country.

That’s great, I fucking admire. Your knowledge and awareness in exchange for bombs.

It would be sad if someone sent a fabricated scan to the FSB how you insult the Russian army and intend to go photograph strategic objects.

from Russia you may no longer leave because they may hold you as a political prisoner.

I am able to imagine the situation that such a colleague is detained by the Russian services on any pretext, and then used for political games for years. Well, but the adventure is more important.

Doesn’t the light go on in your head that going there with a Polish passport when Poland is considered a hostile country, where you can’t count on any rights in case of arrest, where they can give you charges out of your ass (read about the history of Russia and the rule of law in that country), and the Polish embassy, even if it wants to, won’t be able to help you very much?

If you don’t have copper(money), you sit at home.

Polish traveler who actually went to Russia

There’s a guy called Tomasz Jakimuk who’s a big time traveller. In 2018 he wrote a blog post debunking stereotypes about Russian people.

  1. Russians hate Poles - myth

Greater nonsense I have not heard - seriously! From the moment I entered Russia through the Ukrainian-Russian border, every time I ran up to a caught car (hitchhiking) I said in Russian: “Good morning! I from Poland! I’m going to hitchhike! You can hitchhike with you to…. The vast majority of drivers responded like this: “Good morning! You from POLAND!!! Well, sure! Get in! Get in!” The hearts of the drivers at the word “Poland” genuinely opened.

During a month of hitchhiking and scootering through this great country, not once, but I emphasize not once, did I encounter a bad attitude towards my person due to the fact that I am Polish. A stereotype totally sucked out of a finger. I understand that someone may have had an unpleasant situation with the Russians somewhere, but you can not lump the whole nation together and create an opinion about this country based on that.

PS. Do you know where I had the most hook-ups during my travels to fight? In Poland.

Opinion among Russians

Some time ago I wrote a post on Reddit r/AskARussian what they think about this idea, I was mainly concerned with the aspect of being Polish in Russia, these were the responses I got:

No one feels any hatred towards the Poles in everyday life.

Not risky as pole, but risky as hitchhiker.

Any foreigner isn’t put in jail for being foreigner.

Polish people are fine as always, no hate here.

We still share same heritage, and it really matters, at least for russians.

For a lot of ppl Polish are still comrades, there is some hate, but against government.

I thought you were just fellow Slavic people, that’s all.

However, I’d say Russians don’t generally feel any real negativity towards the Polish as a nation.

Overall I’d say you’ll be fine - just don’t do anything stupid in terms of any foreigner coming to Russia.

They are fine just like any other people.

How did your propaganda media pollute your brains … this is some kind of nightmare.

Russia is not a mono-ethnic state, more than 190 nationalities and peoples live in Russia.

Sorry, but it is very stupid to think that in Russia someone, even a foreigner, may have problems because of his nationality.

Yes, and we have idiots who believe in the stupidity of local Nazis. But they are infinitely few. And to meet them - you need to try.

Putting foreigners to jail? Man, soon they gonna tell you, that Russians rape kids and eat dogs…oh, wait…

Nobody would care if you’re Polish or not (assuming you won’t be actively mocking or provoking people).

Telling people you’re Polish is fine, though. If pressed (unlikely), just insist that, cough, you’re one of the good Poles and that you hate Bandera and want our countries to be friendly.

I do not think it’s risky. I only new that we supposed to hate each other from polish people.

Rather risky, not cause you are a Pole, but cause it’s dangerous as itself.

Indian guy here. Hitchhiked the entire country from Tuapse to Vladivostok. (Twice)99% of interactions have been positive and the Russian people are very kind and generous towards foreigners who have the balls to try to hitchhike the country.

That’s pretty much it. If you hitchhike Russia, it would be one of the most amazing things you could do. I even wrote a book about my trip.

I would not call it absolutely safe, but not because you are pole, because you have to tresspass some wild and poor regions like Buryatia or Yakutia.

Being a hitchhiker isn’t safe, though being a pole in Russia is absolutely okay. The authorities won’t put you to jail or anything, it’s all lies. Almost everyone in Russia respects your nationality (if you’re respectful to our nationalities of course).

Lol Russians love their Polish cousins. Even if most polish dislike Russians. Russians are less racist than poles, so.

You will be safe tbh, people won’t care about where you are from tbh.

It’s part of propaganda to stir up hatred between us. In fact, I have a rather bad attitude towards Poles, but every time it was discussed with real Russian people living in Poland, they said that it is very inflated at the level of politicians and propaganda, but at the everyday level everything is fine.

Russians are fine with poles, no specific hate.

Never really seen any hate on polish people. No one will care that you’re from Poland.

People are different and there are different attitudes, obviously. It is true that Poland is generally portayed in a negative light in the mainstream media, and many people are susceptible to this, However, few people are interested in confrontations in real life (except for some drunk idiots, I guess). In my experience, even if you speak about politics with a stranger and you seem to disagree, phrases like “everyone needs peace” and “it’s dirty politics” are a good common ground.

No, they don’t put foreigners to jail for no reason, although the security services are obviously on high alert and the border guards will pay much attention to a lone male Pole travelling on his own. I guess you got to have as many documents confirming your plans as possible (Not sure about the visa situation in general).

Russia is an interesting country to hitchhike through. Russians usually treat polish people as equal. There is no point about lying about your origins. Treat people with respect and they will do the same for you. Nobody will put you to jail or harm you in any way unless you shit talk about Russia and/or it’s people or do something illegal, so I recommend you study local laws first.

There is no risk in being a Pole (the main thing is to be a good, honest and polite person), but there is a risk in the hitchhiking itself.

I don’t think there will be problems because of your citizenship, because in Russia they don’t give a damn about it. In most cases, you will meet open and kind people, but in every country there is crime and Russia is no exception.

lol, no risk at all. Same risk as being Russian in Russia.

Never heard anything about political situation really, i know that there were some historical events. But no one i ever knew enviced any hatred to polish people. Only things i saw that could be deemed controversial are people saying kurwa and meming “polish cow” meme online. As i know gov doesn’t really tend to arrest foreign tourist. tho it’s from zoomer’s pov, maybe older generations are somewhat hostile

Poles reaction

Response of Polish people to these comments from Russians? They’re fake, Russians are so closed that for sure they didn’t write this, it’s propaganda.

Well, it’s a word against a word - how to resolve it? Go there and see by yourself, so that nobody can tell you what to think :).

Zełgać po swojemu – to nieomal lepsze niż powtórzyć prawdę za kim innym. W pierwszym wypadku jest się człowiekiem, w drugim tylko papugą.

Lying in your own way - it’s almost better than repeating the truth after someone else. In the first case you are a human being, in the second you are just a parrot.

My opinion

I don’t want to be on any side of the conflict, neither on Russian, nor Ukrainian. We don’t know how much we don’t know about the whole situation, and both sides are heavily influenced by propaganda, thus making it heavily unreliable to make any conscious judgements.

I also heavily doubt, that few hundred dollars I spend there, will anyhow impact growth of Russian economy.

For me, the whole trip is more like a spiritual and education experience, that’ll be the longest trip ever in my life, adding it with the fact that the East is not really touristic, it makes it all way more beneficial for me, in terms of knowledge I’ll get out of it.

In my life I have never had(except of Transnistria) an opportunity to really speak to Russians, and see how are they in real world interactions. After all, we’re all humans, right?

I don’t feel like a pawn of the whole political situation between the West and Russia, I don’t need and want to participate in the whole cancel situation.

Travel educates, but certainly not the kind to a touristy 5-star beach hotel in Spain. And that’s the style this trip certainly won’t be.

Other comments

My advice to you is to stop in the European part from Moscow/St. Petersburg to Yekaterinburg. I do not recommend hitchhiking further. More distance between cities and less traffic. It is better to take a train ticket to Vladivostok (it is also quite fun, especially if you learn to understand Russian a little). As it is, my advice is not to enter into political debates (more for the sake of personal safety) and not to have anything to do with drugs.

In 2007, two travelers from the Netherlands wandered into my small town located very far in Siberia. We met them at the railway station in the city of Nizhnevartovsk when local hooligans were trying to rob them. My friends and I helped them fight back and took them with us to the dacha for a party. For two days they drank vodka with Russian punks, if meat, and steamed in a bathhouse. We communicated in a mixture of English, German and French. In the end, we collected money for them for tickets to Krasnoyarsk, from where they planned to continue traveling to Mongolia and China. A few weeks later, the news showed that they were still robbed at the border with China. Hitchhiking always implies danger. Please note that approximately from Yekaterinburg to Vladivostok, the area is very sparsely populated and there is a high probability of meeting wild animals. I mean, when I went on a motorcycle trip, I saw distances of 200 kilometers between settlements, and further east it is even further distances. I don’t think there will be problems because of your citizenship, because in Russia they don’t give a damn about it. In most cases, you will meet open and kind people, but in every country there is crime and Russia is no exception. Have a supply of cash hidden in different places. The farther from Moscow, the worse the knowledge of a foreign language. If you have a particular diet, for example, you are a vegan, then finding food will not be a problem, most establishments have meat-free dishes. It is better to warn about food allergies in advance. Upon arrival in Russia, buy a SIM card from a local operator. If you need help, call 112, this is a general emergency number.