Beregsurany (Hungary), Feb 28 : Hungarians living in rural villages came together to help people fleeing over the border with Ukraine as the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues.
“We have been shocked by what happened in Ukraine, we never thought it could actually happen,” Gusztav Furedi, a volunteer with the Hungarian charity Transcarpathian Coordination Office, told Xinhua news agency.
“What you see here is a response to all the difficulties, problems and fear that are present in Ukraine,” he added.
Reception points have been set up by volunteers, welcoming people from Ukraine with hot drinks and food, and organising free ongoing transport, Xinhua news agency reported.
Furedi said the majority of people coming from Ukraine belonged to the Hungarian ethnic minority of Transcarpathia, and spoke Hungarian, so there was no need to provide interpreters.
The Transcarpathian Coordination Office is also ready to provide legal counsel to refugees hoping to apply for asylum in Hungary, he added.
The majority of the Ukrainians were taken to relatives or friends at the border station, but those traveling alone were taken in vans to Beregsurany’s cultural centre, which the city council has turned into a temporary shelter.
Other villages such as Takos also participated in the effort, turning their gymnasiums or cultural centres into temporary shelters.
Most of the refugees are reluctant to speak to the press, let alone give their names. These included a man who had crossed over the border with his wife, daughter, daughter-in-law and three children.
“Our journey took us nearly 10 hours, and we also waited four to five hours at the border control,” he said.
Meanwhile, his wife told Xinhua that the family was going to stay with relatives in Csegod, a small Romanian village close to the border with Hungary.
One young mother of three did not want to leave the welcome point at the border without her husband, fearing that he would be drafted for military service.
She was later reunited with him at the village shelter, nearly eight kilometre from the border.
Ukraine imposed a ban on adult men leaving the country on Thursday evening, meaning that the overwhelming majority of people crossing the border now are women and children.
Lajos Csafit, a driver from Mezoladany, told Xinhua that he began driving people from the border station to the shelter in Mzeoladany three days ago.
“We went to the store and bought the things women and children need, also food and beverages, and left them here at the cultural centre,” he said.
Csafit pledged to provide accommodation for five families at his own home.
“We will welcome them immediately if needed,” he added.
“When the armed conflict broke out in Ukraine, we went to the border immediately to ask people what they needed the most after crossing to Hungary,” Istvan Herka, Mayor of Beregsurany, told Xinhua.
On the first day, the Ukrainians just passed through to Budapest or the surrounding area, and did not require shelter. However, from the second day onwards, some began arriving with no immediate place to go.
“So we turned the cultural house into this shelter to keep them warm, where they typically spend three to five hours,” Herka said.
“In the next few days, we expect the number of people coming from Ukraine to increase, as there are more than 3,000 cars waiting now at the other side of the border, and according to the news, peace is still far away,” he added.