There were no passport officers on the dirt road, no customs lane, no signs marking this isolated patch of farmland for what it has become: a clandestine gateway for military supplies entering Ukraine.
“No pictures, no pictures,” shouted a Polish border guard as a convoy of 17 trucks hissed to a halt on a biting morning earlier this week.
Not far from here was a Ukrainian military base where at least 35 people had been killed a few days earlier by a Russian missile barrage, and no one wanted to call attention to this ad hoc border crossing. Washington Post journalists were directed to turn off the geolocation function of their cameras.
The convoy was carrying 45 vehicles — retrofitted Jeeps, ambulances, an armored bank truck and an army field kitchen — as well as 24 tons of diesel. It had traveled overnight from Lithuania as part of a swelling supply network racing to catch up with the return of war to Europe. More than a dozen volunteer drivers, including one whose relief work was normally limited to helping motorists stranded on the highway, had driven hood-to-taillight almost around-the-clock to rendezvous with Ukrainian fighters.
While governments negotiate over fighter jets and high-end weapon systems, soldiers on the ground are struggling to fill more basic needs. With Ukraine’s own factories shut down by shelling, its forces rely increasingly on volunteer, pop-up supply chains like this one for vital gear, including body armor, medical supplies and the pickup trucks and SUVs they covet as fighting vehicles.
A second convoy was scheduled to arrive later in the day, packed with generators, radios, surveillance drones, night-vision gear and, most coveted of all, almost 7,000 bulletproof vests and helmets. For the soldiers, it is a lifeline.