Boryspil, the biggest airport of Ukraine, is often referred to as a gateway to this country. Extending this metaphor, the border guards working at the checkpoint Kyiv, which has under its jurisdiction the Boryspil airport, could be called gatekeepers. These border guards are the first Ukrainians any new arrivals politicians, tourists, businesspersons, pop and movie stars meet when they pass through the checkpoint gates in the Boryspil airport. And these border guards give those who come to Ukraine for the first time their first impressions of this country. On the one hand, the border guards must always be deferential and polite, but on the other, they must always be vigilant and watchful. There are quite a few reasons for that: in 1997 alone, over six hundred illegal immigrants were detained at Boryspil.
Lieutenant-Colonel Volodymyr Korniychuk, commander of the Boryspil checkpoint.

Border guard officers of the Boryspil Airport, the biggest air terminal in Ukraine.

At the checkpoint in Boryspil.

Because of the advantageous geographical position of Ukraine, illegal immigrants have been making numerous attempts to use Ukraine as the main staging post on the way from Africa (from which the biggest flow of immigrants comes), Central and South-Eastern Asia to western Europe. But last year, thanks to the untiring efforts of the border guards at Boryspil, the number of illegal immigrants detained dropped to only 30. Now, Afghans, Pakistanis, the Vietnamese and others try easier ways of getting to the much coveted west through points other than Boryspil. However, citizens of Sri-Lanka and Nigeria keep doggedly trying to get through Boryspil. A special unit of border guards for working at airports of Ukraine was created way back in the time of the Second World War. But as the main stream of foreign passengers moved through Moscow, there was not much work for Ukrainian airport border guards to do, no events or incidents to speak of. There was one though which seemed to have come from a spy movie: in the baggage of an Argentinean diplomat, the border guards discovered a real spy, "complete with a gun". After Ukraine proclaimed its independence, Ukrainian border guard units were newly formed. Boryspil became an international airport with intensive air traffic, and the role of the border guards in Boryspil correspondingly grew, their responsibility grew, too. The border guards are better trained and have been provided with sophisticated equipment. Cooperation with corresponding services of other countries the USA, Germany and others has been established.

Border guards from countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as from Rumania and Estonia, come to Boryspil to see how the border guard service is organized there. A big database has been set up. The prestige of working as border guards at Boryspil has grown so much, that a tough selection has been introduced with preference being given to those applicants who have higher education and know at least two foreign languages.

By Roman Kostrytsya
Photographs by Mykhaylo Kutsy