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How Hungarians are welcoming refugees from Ukraine

Fedél Nélkül, a street paper like The Big Issue operating in Hungary, reports on how Hungarians have responded to the 200,000 Ukrainian refugees who have fled to their country.

More than two million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began and while the UK dragged its feet in welcoming refugees, surrounding nations have leapt into action. 

Over the border in Hungary, NGOs, charities and street papers have been rushing to the aid of 200,000 people from Ukraine seeking safety. 

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Refugees arrive at an aid centre in the city of Vásárosnamény. Image: Gábor Csanádi
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There have been offers of aid, accommodation and even jobs for Ukrainian refugees in Hungary. Image: Gábor Csanádi

Boldizsár Győri, a student at the National University of Public Service in Budapest, told the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) – a global membership group for street papers like The Big Issue – of a remarkable effort to offer help that spanned society. 

“The arrival of refugees was expected: what we saw on social media and the whispers coming from the border, every rumour, all proved to be true,” said Győri. “And immediately, the country moved as one to properly welcome those people who had witnessed the destruction of their homeland within 48 hours. 

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“Public transport buses parked in front of the main train stations, where refugees could get warm. At the border, all major aid organisations have set up tents, where those who are coming over receive food, blankets and any kind of help. 

“In the first few days, taxis were replaced by volunteers who would transport the arrivals by car to the capital or to the nearest city or town for free. I took a shipment of aid with the Caritas organisation to the western Ukrainian region of Transcarpathia over the weekend. At the Hungarian side of the border, at one of the crossings, so much food was collected that it was even offered to us, otherwise the sandwiches would have gone bad.” 

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Makeshift accommodation has been set up at the border between Ukraine and Hungary. Image: Gábor Csanádi
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Refugees from Ukraine have fled to neighbouring countries since the Russian invasion began at the end of February. Image: Gábor Csanádi

Győri added that councils and universities have opened doors to house people who have made the journey to Hungary. 

In the city of Szolnok there are 200 places, while the University of Debrecen has offered housing for 250 people and the MOME [Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design] has offered accommodation for 100 refugees. Refugees can get free travel on public transport in Miskolc and meat processing company Kométa is offering jobs. 

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Meanwhile, Fedél Nélkül, a street paper like The Big Issue that is sold by homeless people in Hungary, has been reporting how the country has united to take care of the refugees from Ukraine.

Róbert Kepe, editor-in-chief of Fedél Nélkül, added: “While helping refugees and caring for the homeless may seem like a very similar activity at first glance, it is more complex in reality. Although they are all human, aid workers have quite different problems to solve.  

“We don’t speak a common language with most refugees. They have never had to sleep in a shelter; or if they have a problem that requires medical treatment, they have to take a long and tangled path to receive care.”

“We are really proud that thousands of citizens are going to the border to help with food, clothes and kind words. 

“The whole country has united. And for all that, it is extremely awkward that our central government and political parties do the same things that we are used to: not doing effective work or starting real dialogue, but giving useless declarations. We really hope that the horrors of war will end soon.

Courtesy of the International Network of Street Papers (insp.ngo). Translated by Bernadett Berkes

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