Hungarians helping the refugees send a clear message

Author: Eszter PRÓKAI Original title:  Világos üzenetet küldtek a menekülteket segítő magyarok
Publication: ABCÚG , Photo: MTI – Zsolt Szigetváry Date: 09/09/2015

Hungarians helping the refugees send a clear message

 “We are grateful to the Hungarian people for their help,”said the message on the black notice written by refugees at the Keleti train station last week. Whereas the news about Hungary nowadays mostly talks about the government’s inhumane treatment of the refugees arriving in Hungary, the Hungarian citizens themselves have demonstrated their wish to show solidarity and provide help.

Huffington Post, an American online newspaper, published a long article last week about the fact that instead of the Hungarian government, it is civilians who are providing help to the refugees. According to the writer of the article, where the Hungarian government’s role oscillates between aggression and inaction, the civilian population deserves real recognition for having stood up for the refugees and provided help to them wherever they could; especially as this has happened in a country not typically prone to public protest or demonstration.

“Without the work of volunteers and their bountiful donations, the situation at Keleti train station would have probably been unbearable,” says the article. Thousands of Hungarian volunteers and anonymous donors have are not only acting out of generosity and solidarity, but they are also sending a clear message to their government and fellow citizens that they have a different opinion of the refugees than they do. The author of the article claimed that this has been the biggest crisis in Europe since the Second World War and that the Hungarian people have demonstrated their humanitarian efforts and solidarity in the situation.

The work of the Hungarian volunteers has contributed to the almost surreal situation of the refugees there and helped to create a positive image of Western European governments and their citizens, such as the citizens of Austria, the Germany and Iceland, who – according to various articles and reports – have received the refugees with open arms and showed eagerness to help them, contrary to the Hungarian government. While the Hungarian government has developed an image of hatred towards refugees, masses of Hungarian volunteers and citizens have proven otherwise. They are the people who have been at pains to provide help in the everyday life of the refugees arriving in Hungary.

Here are some recent examples showing how these civilians have supported the refugees.

Volunteers at the railway stations

For several weeks hundreds of volunteers have been providing help to the refugees at the railway stations and public areas of Budapest. Most of the refugees are waiting at Keleti railway station, where the situation has become practically unmanageable in recent weeks. Most people immediately associate these volunteers with Migration Aid (MA), a civil initiative, however, there are several unrelated volunteers spontaneously appearing at the station who play with the children and distribute food, drinks and candy. Volunteer doctors and interpreters can be found among them as well.

Our article about the volunteers working at Keleti railway station can be found here . ( link to the publisher’s previous item, in Hungarian only – trans.) .

Migration Aid was launched on Facebook in June and within just a few days thousands of people joined with the intention of providing humanitarian aid to the refugees arriving in Hungary in order to facilitate their travels and there stay in there. Activists who joined MA started giving out information and distributing food, drinks, personal hygiene items and clothes at the main transport hubs on the way to refugee camps as well as around the camps in Szeged, Debrecen, Bicske, Fót and Cegléd outside of Budapest. Depositories have filled up.

Later, however, because the situation had become unmanageable, almost all support was shifted to the railway stations of Budapest, mostly to Keleti. Volunteers have been there 24 hours a day making lunch, providing medical help, collecting and distributing donations and – one night – even projecting a Tom and Jerry movie on a huge screen for refugee kids. So many donations have been made by anonymous citizens so far that all the depositories of Migration Aid have been filled up and MA had to ask donors to stop making donations until 15 September. The owner of a Scottish pub in Budapest has offered his pub to prepare sandwiches and store donations for MA.

Hungarian citizens waiting for the refugees along the motorway

There have been a lot of people providing help in an unorganized, spontaneous way, such as the Hungarians who hurried to help refugees who were walking towards the Austrian border last Friday. The refugees set off for Vienna on foot, and as soon as they reached the road marking the edge of Budapest, locals offered them food, drinks, toilet paper, etc., almost all along the motorway. Even a pram was donated by a citizen to help a parent who was carrying a child. Drivers also stopped and tried to help the walking refugees by offering them rides. Two young women, who admitted a Syrian family into their car, got stuck in traffic. Because they could not move they were forced to listen to a driver of a car with a Slovakian number plate curse and threaten them. The Syrian family got so afraid that the two women would get into trouble because of them that they got out of the car and continued walking.

Voluntary health care

There are doctors volunteering at almost all the important places of the refugee crisis such as at the railway stations and at the refugee collection point in Röszke. They are the ones who, although with limited means, try to provide medical help to the refugees in need. In Pécs, this work is done in an organized way owing to the fact that the paramedics of Galenus Rescue Service, after finishing their official shifts, have been working voluntarily and for free at the railway station of the town of Pécs. According to one of these paramedics, there has already been a case of serious pneumonia, however, most often they have treated other less serious injuries. Recently another initiative has been launched to provide accommodation to refugee families.

The “Békefészek mozgalom” (Peacenest Movement) started out as a private initiative: Bence Illyés with his girlfriend began to accommodate refugee families in his father’s empty flat close to Keleti railway station. Right now, a Syrian family of 9 inhabit the flat, all of them sleeping on beds and mattresses in one room. Bence told Abcúg that more and more people have informed them about their wish to take in families and hundreds of people have offered them their help.


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