“We were immediately overwhelmed by the number of requests we received,” said van Drunen, a former Dutch diplomat who lived in Kyiv and moved to Hungary in 2013.
Within days, others across Irota also intervened. The midwife offered to help pregnant Ukrainian women and infants. The town’s only dentist volunteered to treat a refugee with a toothache for free, and the local church converted cottages used for a children’s camp into extra sleeping space for refugees.
“Everyone in Hungary tried to help us. They are amazing people,” said Natalia Adamenko, 44, who stayed in one of the church’s cottages when she first fled Kyiv before moving to a nearby town with her daughter. , Kseniya, 17 years old. “I know the Hungarian government is not that loyal, but real people are different.
Aid workers say relying on volunteers to support refugees means more Ukrainians will inevitably fall through the cracks as exhausted volunteers become exhausted as the war drags on.
“We have seen a lot of European solidarity towards Ukrainians, but the extent to which this solidarity will be maintained in the months to come is a big question,” said Emily Venturi, specialist in refugees and migration at Chatham House, a London – think tank based. “What will happen if the families hosting refugees reach a certain point where it is no longer viable for them to do so? So what ? »
Léderer shares these concerns. “Unless the government and state authorities come to an agreement very quickly, we are going to have very serious problems here,” he said.
Already, not all refugees arriving in Hungary have received the same support as those from Irota.
Yulia Sheikhova, 32, escaped from Mariupol with her husband and their children aged 3 and 12, just before their building was destroyed. She said her family found a hostel in Budapest through word of mouth. Finding food was more difficult.
Queuing outside a donation tent run by volunteers, she said she had gone to the government-set up humanitarian center at Budapest’s BOK stadium in search of food for her children. But all he was offered were juice boxes and apples. “No real meals,” she said.
“My children are scared. They are hungry. They are tired,” Sheikhova said.
Finding reliable shelter was also a challenge for some refugees.
Since leaving Kyiv, Natasha Dobzogozskaya, 39, and her 6-year-old twin daughters had been staying at the Hungaria Hotel in downtown Budapest while waiting for a visa to travel to London, where they planned to live with her cousin until that it is safe to return to Ukraine.