Since the beginning of the war, Sascha has been evacuating people from Ukraine and bringing them into Moldova. He is 45 years old, born in Moldova, and his wife is Ukrainian. In the beginning, he brought people from Kyiv to Moldova. Now, he is primarily chauffeuring people from Odessa and Mykolaiv.
I accompanied him on one of his trips to Odessa. As we get started early that morning, I ask Sascha if he is nervous about going to the city. “Of course, it's stressful to go to Odessa,” he says, “But if not me, then who?" Then he starts the engine.
Sascha drives to Ukraine to evacuate people three times a week. At 6 am, he starts from Moldova’s capital, Chişinău. Sascha has been working as a bus driver for many years. Before the invasion, he was driving travelers all over Europe, now he's rescuing people from the war zone. Over the course of the trip, Sascha smokes two packs of cigarettes, purchased duty-free at the border. Whether it is out of habit or stress, I do not know. Before he leaves, he crosses himself three times. Immediately after crossing the border, the war becomes very present. Within the last few days, rocket attacks on Odessa have increased. As a result, the controls at the checkpoint have intensified. Sascha arrives in Odessa at 11:30 am. People are already waiting for him at the main station. The feelings are especially tense today. The night before, a rocket hit a residential building nearby killing a small child. Many women are accompanied by their partners, who help them carry their luggage. Another family forced to separate. A husband (and father) of a family stays behind. He cannot join them. For Sascha, the journey is only half complete. He uses the stopover to get his engine checked. He carries out all other repairs on his bus himself. On the way back, Sascha passes through armored roadblocks again. Long traffic jams can be seen in front of the checkpoint in the opposite direction. At the gas station, there is hardly any fuel left. During the journey, the bus was stopped twice by the military. A soldier with a Kalashnikov and a dog check the passengers. The Ukrainian men have to explain why they are allowed to leave the country. Around 2 pm, the evacuation bus arrives back at the Moldovan border. Registration at the border takes about two hours, but everyone makes it through. Now, for Sascha, the journey into Moldova is all about getting back home to his family. His two daughters, 5 and 18 years old, and his wife are waiting for him. For those fleeing, it is a departure into the unknown. Around 7 pm, Sascha is joyfully received by a colleague in Chişinău and sets to work cleaning his bus so he can get home in time to see his youngest daughter before she has to go to bed. He gets up too early in the mornings to see her before he leaves. The Ukrainian refugees will continue their journey Westward in one or two days, unless they plan to stay in Moldova. In the meantime, they are accommodated in a church, which has been converted into an emergency shelter. Sascha's family thinks he's crazy for constantly exposing himself to such risk. He replies, "That's my job. And I love my job."