People across Hungary have come together to help the refugees arriving from Ukraine, government spokeswoman Alexandra Szentkirályi said on Sunday.
Speaking in Barabás, in north-eastern Hungary, where she was visiting the local aid point and took part in distributing the donations, Szentkirályi said the system set up for supporting the refugees is working smoothly, with the authorities, municipalities, civil organisations, aid organisations and the government all working together to help them.
Szentkirályi said there is also an aid point in Asztély, on the other side of the Beregsurány border crossing, where the staff of the Hungarian Interchurch Aid provide temporary shelter, distribute food and hygiene products and assess the needs of the refugees waiting to cross the border.
“As difficult and sad as this situation is, it is also uplifting to see everyone coming together to help these people fleeing the war,” she said, noting that the refugees are received with kind words and gestures at every border crossing, aid point and railway station.
Warm clothes and a bowl of hot food are important, Szentkirályi said, but most people say that what really matters is “a smile, a kind word and a hug”. Many have left their fathers, husbands and brothers behind in Ukraine, she said.
This can be tough to handle, and we cannot be grateful enough to the people who try to help those fleeing the war “first hand”, the government spokeswoman said.
The government’s aid programme to help Ukrainian citizens fleeing from war raised 540 million forints (EUR 1.4m) in donations by Sunday morning, the state secretary for church and minority relations has said.
Speaking to public broadcaster Kossuth Radio, Miklós Soltész encouraged the public to continue volunteering, donating money and food and offering shelter to refugees.
The charity organisations involved in the programme have provided some 200 million forints’ worth of support to more than 59,000 people at the help points at the border and Budapest’s railway stations, Soltész said.
He noted that the government had first set aside 600 million forints followed by an additional 1.3 billion forints to aid those in western Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region and in other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, he called on the left-wing opposition “not to play with fire” and not to call on Hungary to send weapons or troops to Ukraine.
“Those saying we should take part in this are committing a huge sin against Transcarpathia Hungarians,” he said, emphasising that the current situation called for perseverance, patience and love.
The government launched its Bridge for Transcarpathia aid campaign on Feb 25.