The Sisters of the Central European Province are supporting aid for Ukraine with a generous donation and personal commitment. “We are making a monetary donation to the German “Action Alliance for Disaster Relief”, of which Caritas International is a member,” says Sr Cosima Kiesner CJ, Provincial Superior of the Middle European Province. “But we are doing even more: one of our fellow sisters in Hungary is already on mission at the Hungarian-Ukrainian border to be there together with colleagues from Caritas for refugee women and children and to provide them with the most basic necessities.”
The Congregatio Jesu has also made its house in Eger, eastern Hungary, available to receive refugees. Various communities of the Province in Germany, Austria and South Tyrol that have free rooms are also currently examining whether they can take in refugees from Ukraine. “Many of our sisters have experience with housing and caring for refugees since 2015,” says Sr Cosima. “If we can help, we would verymuch like to do so.”
Sr Jerne Szilvay CJ is working on the Hungarian border to care for refugees. She reports: “In Hungary, the aid organisations are active in different villages on the border to distribute and organise the work well. Caritas is involved in a community called Barabás. We Caritas workers wait at the border for the arriving refugees. At the border crossing, there are long queues until the most necessary formalities are completed. We first distribute drinks and sandwiches to the waiting people.
Men of military age between 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine, so most of the refugees are mothers with children and grandparents, both Ukrainians and Hungarians living in Ukraine.
A warming room has been set up in the village community centre of Barabás, where the refugees find initial accommodation. Here they can rest, eat and sleep after the often arduous flight and the fears they have endured.
There are activities for the children, they can play and paint, which is a welcome change after the stress and fears of the flight. We have noticed that refugees often bring pets with them. We can also provide food for the animals, but with larger dogs it sometimes takes ingenuity to accommodate them somehow.
The time people spend here varies. Either they are picked up quite quickly by relatives and friends, or we organise their onward journey. Many helpful people come by car, bring donations and drive the refugees to the train station or all the way to Budapest. In Hungary, refugees can travel by train for free.
People who have a destination address with relatives or acquaintances in Hungary, but cannot be picked up within a day, are given accommodation at the Reformed Church in the village and can wait there in peace until their onward journey is possible.
Another group of refugees are students from different countries of origin who studied in Kharkiv. They first travel to Budapest and from there onwards.
The tasks of Caritas are manifold: organising the onward journey, distributing food, playing with the children, cleaning, solving very individual problems and looking after the onward travellers.
The whole village population tries to help and we divide the people into the different services. Without their help we could not do our work.”