Emergency Response for Ukraine - Overview and Updates

Daily upadates about the operation of the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid in Ukraine and in Hungary

On February 24 Russia attacked Ukraine and invaded the country. Due to the military operations and actual war in our neighbouring country, human lives are at risk, people lack basic supplies and have been forced to leave their homes. Internally displaced people have reached the Western part of Ukraine, called also Trans- or Subcarpathia and refugees are arriving to Hungary in growing numbers. The Hungarian Reformed Church Aid (HRCA) has been providing emergency response from the first day and will keep international partners informed about its operation by publishing regular updates.

MRSZ Kárpátalja

The Bishop of the Reformed Church in Transcarpathia, in a circular to the congregations, with love and respect, asked Pastors, Elders and Chief Elders to stay in their place, and remain where they are. "There is a need for the Gospel, for gathering praying communities, and for the ministry we owe to those left behind. Let us care for one another, remain humane, helpful and patient," he said. Taking care of the elderly, those left behind, and the refugees arriving in the region in growing numbers, are the two main responsibilities of our Christian duty in these days.

The Hungarian Reformed Church Aid (HRCA), a long time partner of the Hungarian community in Ukraine, has been answering this call from the very beginning and has started an emergency response operation providing humanitarian aid to the victims of the war in Ukraine by offering food donations, hygiene equipment, information, spiritual assistance and accommodation. Staff members and volunteers are receiving refugees at the border stations and train stations.

HRCA has started a donation campaign and is ready for cooperation with international partners of the Hungarian Reformed Church. Donations from abroad can be transferred to the HRCA's bank account as follows:

  • Beneficiary: Magyar Református Szeretetszolgálat Közhasznú Alapítvány (Hungarian Reformed Church Aid Public Foundation)
  • IBAN: HU67 1070 2019 8500 8898 5110 0005
  • Name of the Bank: CIB BANK Ltd.
  • Address of the Bank: Medve u. 4-14., 1027 Budapest, Hungary
  • Payment Remark: Ukraine

HRCA will keep its partners and the international community informed about its work by publishing daily updates (see below). You can download the summary of our Emegrency Relief here.

We kindly ask our international partners to first address the Ecumenical Officer of the Reformed Church in Hungary, Balázs Ódor, with questions and requests via e-mail: odor.balazs@reformatus.hu.

Daily Updates

Please, be aware, that staff member of the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid (HRCA), colleagues at our Refugee Ministry and the more than 3500 registered volunteers, coordinated by HRCA, have been extremely overwhelmed. They are working almost around the clock to answer multiple needs and challenges of people badly hit by this unjust war. Still, we do our utter best to keep you informed.

Consider this, when reading the daily updates which shall be also an inspiration to PRAY for the people in Ukraine, for leaders and members of our Reformed community in Transcarpathia, for the IPDs there and refugees in Hungary, for our colleagues and volunteers; and after all for JUST PEACE!

24 Februrary

- Our colleague left early in the morning for the Hungarian-Ukrainian border with 800 kg of food, which arrived in Beregszász/Berehove in the morning.

- The survey of vacant properties owned by Church related organisations for the purpose of providing accommodation started.

- In agreement with the Sponsor, we have earmarked a sum of €5,000 from the Church of Rhinland annual support to start our humanitarian activities.

- The Board of Trustees discussed the issue of assistance, and the emergency plan, and authorised the management to organise further humanitarian services.

- A press release was issued announcing a fundraising call for donations, we are accepting donations through 4 channels. Donations from abroad can be transferred to the HRCA’s account as follows: IBAN: HU67 1070 2019 8500 8898 5110 0005, SWIFT code: CIBHHUHB, communication: Ukraine. We are launching a new fundraising campaign on our online donation platform: https://adomany.jobbadni.hu/kampanyok/38

- Consultations were held throughout the day with several Church districts, Prebyteries, congregations, social ministries of RCH, NGO’s and other partners.

- A draft letter was prepared informing the local churches about the relief work that has started, and we also offered to ask the pastors for their help and to coordinate the joint work.

- We contacted our colleagues at Eurodiaconia and sent them our appeal.

- We put out a call for volunteer recruitment to increase our resources.

- Our mobilisable stocks have been assessed.

- Thanks to the Transylvanian Reformed Congregation in Budapest, we have 40 places available to accommodate refugees in Budapest as of today.

- Our colleagues were on duty at Nyugati Railway station to assist refugees arriving by train.

- A telephone helpline will be launched, through which people seeking help can access/request support and pastoral care by calling +36 80 296 844 as of Monday.

- On Friday, additional shelters (60) will be set up in the former Reformed Mission Centre.

- During the coming week, we will participate in meetings with Eurodiaconia and the Charity Council coordinated by the Hungarian Government.

25 February

- The call for fundraising continued on every platform, HRCA received almost 5 million HUF support in one day.

- The work of the National Humanitarian Coordination Council has begun and the decision has been made to launch the Central Donation Line.

- HRCA constantly published news related to our efforts on our own websites and social media platforms (jobbadni.hu and Facebook).

- Offers were received to accommodate 150 persons so far (70 in Budapest and 80 in total on the countryside) and more is under negotiation. We provided accommodation for 7 persons yesterday evening and we are accommodating another 24 persons today. We provide them mattresses, blankets, food, personal care products and healthcare services at the sites.

- In less than a day, 1200 volunteers applied to us, therefore we suspended further application and started to organize the preparation and the assignment of those already applied volunteers.

- Volunteers of HRCA will continue to provide services at the Nyugati Railway Station – they help those in need either in placement or by providing the necessary information – and in addition, our first information leaflet has also been issued.

- Our colleagues donated in total 500 kilograms of food, toiletries and blankets to 150 Transcarpathian students.

- Our staff delivered hundreds of kilograms of durable food, tents, cauldrons suitable for cooking at the border of ZÁHONY.

- We further store a large amount of durable food in our warehouse at GELÉNES.

- Károly Czibere, the chairman of the board of trustees of HRCA, also arrived at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border today afternoon and helped to deliver donations to Transcarpathia.

- Our toll-free number +36 80 296 844 is live from Monday. Regarding assistance you can call our colleagues from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and asking for pastoral care, you can call from 5 p.m. to 1 o’ clock in the morning.

26 February

- Our colleagues started to work at the border of Beregsurány and Lónya – based on the feedback of the colleagues of the Roma Ministry,

- We received large amount of food donations in Záhony from civilians,

- We requested Telenor Telecommunications Company to create a guide for SIM card related frequently asked questions and issues – based on our experience at the borders. Telenor moreover prepared their customer service to receive calls with those questions and launched an in-house donation programme,

- We distributed more than 10 tons of food supply in Transcarpathia (value: 7,5 million HUF)

- We distributed cooked food at Beregsurány border to the people arriving from Ukraine. The traffic of pedestrians is high, lot of mothers arrived with their children including disabled ones. They spend an average 3-4 hours at the transit locations before their families and relatives are picking them up,

- We organized shifts of our colleagues and volunteers serving at the border in Záhony and we helped to accommodate the people arriving from Ukraine. Here, we also distributed 240 portion of warm food.

- We distributed food supply, personal care products and blankets in Lónya.

- We were at present in all train stations and borders throughout the day. The refugees are arriving in growing numbers from Ukraine.

- We informed our colleagues to prepare for reception of refugees in Záhony because further entry was expected from the direction of Csap, where 1000 people were waiting to cross the boarder.

- 17 persons arrived to the building of the former Reformed Mission Center, where they could take some rest and contact their families. Volunteers and colleagues of the Refugee Ministry provide them mental care, as well.

- We received offers to host and accommodate refugees throughout the day, our current capacity is 352 persons country-wide but there is a shortage in Budapest and Debrecen. Currently 51 of our places are occupied. Majority of the people only need temporary housing solutions and are taken care by family members. 92% of the offers came from church institutions or congregations, 8% from civilians.

- Our transportation capacity has increased to 48 persons and cars thanks to the offerings arrived throughout the day.

- We received food donations from congregations like Monorierdő, Pilis, Gyömrő, Őcsény, in cooperation with the Fasor Reformed College and High School in Budapest

- There are 50 colleagues and 50 volunteers currently working in our emergency aid operation.

27 February

- As we foresaw in the early morning, the number of refugees has been increasing during the day. According to our colleagues, hundreds of people arrived at the border and railway stations.

- Along with the increase of the numbers of refugees, the amount of donations and offers in terms of accommodation, transportation, volunteer work and material goods also increased, but the housing of people in Budapest is still a great challenge.

- We seek Reformed Schools to open new shelters for Refugees.

- Today, until 6.30 PM, our accommodation capacity has increased to 934 from yesterday’s 352.

- Hundreds of people came to Záhony in the early morning hours, but they usually went on to Budapest. Thanks to our colleagues, food and drink have been distributed the whole day. The mayor of the city offered thousands of sandwiches. The supply of mineral water distributed has been ongoing.

- A non-scheduled train from Kiev reached the Keleti (Eastern) Railway Station in Budapest. Supply for 500 people had to be organized immediately: we provided food, drinks and hygiene items. We received the information just 1-1.5 hours earlier. We were able to deploy staff, volunteers, donations to the railway station in a very short time and we catered for everyone.

- Hundreds of people asked for our help at the Nyugati railway station as well, in addition to providing food and accommodation, the greatest demand was for public transportation tickets.

- There was also a great need in diapers and wet wipes because many mothers with small children arrived.

- The staff of HRCA was able to deliver and distribute in-kind donations (non-perishable food and hygiene products) to Záhony (Hungary) and Nagydobrony (Ukraine) at dawn today.

- We delivered tea, masks, canned food, diapers, hygiene products for women, hand sanitizers, tents and heating to our presence in Záhony.

- Today, our work was supported by a lot of individuals, and several well-known personalities.

- The press is still constantly interested in our services, several Hungarian and international news agencies have conducted interviews and reports on our work.

- Our transport capacity has also increased from 48 to 129 persons/cars.

28 Februrary

-The morning news was that a train was arriving at the eastern train station with approx. five hundred refugees. Our colleague with the volunteers were prepared to receive the newcomers.

- For the rest of the day, until 4:30 p.m., there was relatively calmness at the Eastern Railway Station, so the colleague and the volunteers whose working here were able to go over to the Western Railway Station to share their experiences with those who served there.

- At the Western Railway Station the a.m. hours were relatively quieter. We mostly had to do with the volunteers, and with those who came to offer their accommodation/transfer as an aid or came there to donate. The traffic increased after 10 a.m. As it was reported that the peak of the traffic growth will be happen with the IC train arriving at 13:37, which will carry 500+ refugees, the police were also prepared to increase the number of their uniform workers on the spot. The cooperation was expressly good, for example before the large crowd arrived, all of our interpreters were briefed on how they will work and how we can help each other the best.

- After the large number of people who left the Western Railway Station, we learned that (also from a police source) a larger number of arrivals were expected at the East Station at 4:37 p.m. Colleagues indicated the information in the central chat.

-There were two chief physicians and one chief assistant at the Western from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., offered by Bethesda Hospital, so we could help not only with food and transportation, but also with health care when needed.

- The most difficult thing in dealing with this situation is that we need to divide our forces between the two metropolitan stations in order that in one period a larger number of people arrive to one of the train stations, and in another period a larger number of people arrive to the other station. Unfortunately, neither the police information is accurate, because they cannot predict how many people will be on the trains when they arrive at the station, despite they receive a signal from the other station.

- What’s helpful is that several sponsors came in during the day who came empty-handed and asked what to buy.

- The day was similar in ZÁHONY, there were periods when a large number of refugees arrived. Our colleague reported that, compared to yesterday, today's arrivals rather came from and around Kiev and Kharkov. Among the newcomers, there were many guest students from third countries, like in Budapest. During the day, the Help Point System was launched, where all help provides both available information and accommodation for 24 hours.

- With regard to those coming from third countries, the police in the Western railway Station drew our attention today to the fact that we need to regsiter them to the police because they must be dealt with and placed separately.

- We received a letter of assistance at midnight yesterday asking for help in accommodating 12,000 Indian students in Ukraine - we are trying our best to help.

1 March

- Accomodation capacity: 2609 people (2022.03.01. 19:24) - Transport capacity: 203 people (2022.03.01. 19:31)

- Until today HRCA received 68 000 000 HUF donation from our sponsors – congregations and individuals ( i.a. Gustav Adolf Werk who 5.000 EUR first aid), whereof we could insure the essential equipments, food and materials to the catered people.

- Budapest Nyugati/Western Railway Station:

- Our colleagues were able to set up a donation point at a more appropriate location. HRCA works with the Red Cross closely together

- Coordination of in-kind donations delivered directly to the Railway Station present a huge, but still manageable challenge: non-perishable food, at least two thousands sandwiches, hygiene equipments, diaper, baby wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant etc. There is high need for toothbrushes and the toothpastes.

- According to our colleagues at least 300 people took out material donation to the railway station.

- Trains arrived in every hour to the Nyugati railway station from the boarder area. Other trains in every 4 hour, which start from the Keleti railway station, go through north-eastern Hungary and arrive to Nyugati Railway Station. Furthermore there are two trains, which directly transported refuges from Kijev. Approximation of our colleagues at least one hundred refugees travelled in every train.

- Some other trains arrived to the Keleti Railway station in the afternoon too, so a number of people went over there to translate and to give sandwiches and water to the new arrivers.

- Mainly foreign students studying in Ukraine arrived and they had different needs than the earlier arrivals (example: they can’t speak hungarian, russian, ukrainian, only english)

- Camp beds and other equipments also arrived in the night, we had to organize their placement and assemble them.

- Our colleagues got aligned better with the new participants in assistance (local mayor and the people cordinated by him) by the afternoon. Our colleagueas feel like the cooperation and the service were much better organized and more effective. The relation is very good with the police.

- In the afternoon, the students arrived in a large crowd, among others the forecast Indian students. They needed to handle separately, because their embassy collected and transported them to Budapest.

- There were 80 people in temporary accomodation, whereof it turned out to have COVID19+. There was found other people with COVID19+ in Sárospatak too, all of them are transported back to Záhony and immigration police takes care of them.

- In Záhony, placing the donations is problematic due to its volume. There are donors arriving with a whole van’s cargo full with donations. Other donors are also in present with smaller volumes and packages.

- We claimed and got more mobil equipments by Yettel (former Telenor), which will help us more providing our services ( 4 wifi routers and 4 SIM cards, 10 mobile phones and associated SIM cards )

2 March

Facilitated customs checks on the border (12:35)

In order to allow as quickly as possible arriving in Hungary from Ukraine, the customs officers are carrying out light checks and customs controls. So that families, that mostly consist of women and children, do not have to wait for long at the border. Relief transport heading to Ukraine are being allowed through on a priority basis. According to a statement from the National Tax and Customs Administration, 98,000 people crossed the border from Ukraine between 24 February and 1 March, 13,000 of them travelling by train, reports www.karpatalja.ma.

Assistance at the railway stations (12:29)

The staff and volunteer team of the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid are supporting the refugees arriving by train with information and donations near the border in Záhony, and helping to bring them to temporary accommodation. In Budapest, the HRCA team is present at the Nyugati railway station until late in the evening, reports www.jobbadni.hu.

Free support sessions (12:32)

Free support group sessions are held on weekdays at the St. Martin's District Central Hospital in Mukachevo. The sessions are mainly for people, who have left their homes and are struggling with fear, anxiety, panic attacks and other psychological pain. According to the press service of St. Martin's Hospital, psychologists will offer counselling to all people who need help. Individual consultations are also available on request. For details, you can ask at the diagnostic centre of the hospital (29, Hrushevsky Street, 4th floor, conference room, Mukachevo) or by phone (0800503118, line 2), reports www.karpatalja.ma.

False rumours that HRCA donations were cleared at the border (14:20)

"The news, that the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid's donations have not been allowed to pass to Transcarpathia started spreading like wildfire in the news and social media on Wednesday, but the claims of the news portal cited as the source are untrue," HRCA said in a statement.

"The Hungarian Reformed Church Aid’s minibuses carrying donations passed through Transcarpathia on the weekend of the outbreak of the war and earlier this week, delivering durable food and hygiene products to help people in need across the border. It is true that the Foundation's staff had to wait longer than usual at the border, but the most important thing is that the donations reached their destination. The Hungarian Reformed Church Aid respectfully asks the public to share only information from credible sources, as in this situation, scaremongering only makes the work of charitable organisations more difficult."

2 March

- Today we sent 2.37 tons of donations to Transcarpathia.

- Our accommodation capacity: 2834 people (03/02/2022 18:55)

- Our transport capacity: 250 people (03/02/2022 18:57)

- Western Railway Station

- Záhony

    • A lot of people arrived at the station today as well. According to colleagues, the arrival of the students was still dominant today. Approximately 80% of the arrivals were students, Indian students. A representative of their embassy is on the spot to receive the Indian guest students and assist with their care.
    • During the day, a train arrived which was carrying 200 disabled children. They were escaped from Ukraine by a Polish priest. The Polish Karitas arrived at the station and transported them to Poland. There was some difficulty with their documents, but in the end the police let them go on. Due to their condition, the children had to be accompanied to the bus by colleagues and representatives of the Polish Caritas.
    • There was a similar problem with two mothers who arrived only with their children's birth certificates, with which they could not travel further to another EU country but were no longer allowed to return to Ukraine.
    • Thanks to the good relationship with the station chief, they got some place at the old Resti restaurant building where they can serve the people more efficiently.