Eastern European aid effort strained as Ukrainian refugees continue to arrive



People line up for shelter while waiting for transport after fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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  • Volunteers took on most of the effort
  • Some cities say they lack housing
  • More than 2.5 million people have fled, more expected

MEDYKA, Poland/PRAGUE, March 11 (Reuters) – Eastern Europe’s voluntary aid effort to help Ukrainians showed signs of strain on Friday, with some towns running out of accommodation as the number of refugees surged the 2.5 million and that the fierce fighting continued unabated.

Relief work in the frontline states – Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Moldova – has been carried out mainly by ordinary citizens who have volunteered to drive, cook or house refugees, with the help of organizations non-governmental and local authorities.

But with the war now in its third week and the number of refugees continuing to rise, it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide sufficient aid. Read more

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In Krakow, Poland’s second city, an NGO described the situation at the city’s train station as “tragic”.

“There is nowhere to direct the refugees. They are stressed and confused, need help of all kinds, especially locals,” tweeted Fundacja Brata Alberta, an NGO that helps people in normal times. mental disabilities.

“We call many places, but the only answer is: there are no more beds. Government intervention is needed!”

In Hrubieszow, a Polish town on the Ukrainian border, Mayor Marta Majewska said she had spent the city’s entire crisis reserve of 100,000 zlotys ($22,889), along with 170,000 zlotys from the local province, to run a reception center for refugees.

“It’s the electricity bills that worry me the most,” she told Radio Zet. “The city can’t stand it at all.”


In Warsaw, the largest temporary reception center was around 70% full on Thursday. Refugees now make up 10% of the Polish capital’s population, Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said. Read more

In Przemysl, near Poland’s busiest border crossing that has become a hub for refugees, Vice Mayor Boguslaw Swiezy said he was seeing a drop in the number of volunteers, some of whom are students, others people on leave.

The Polish government this week proposed a law allowing people who host refugees to claim 8.3 euros per day per person.

It is also preparing a fund of 1.6 billion euros to help refugees, and has mobilized the police, fire brigade and other services to distribute the aid.

Romania’s capital, Bucharest, was transforming a convention center and indoor arena, Romexpo, into its largest refugee shelter to date, while Hungary considered whether to transform museums, sports arenas and other public buildings in Budapest in shelters.

In the Czech Republic, officials in Prague appealed to the general public and more hotels to accommodate refugees.

“The demand for accommodation in Prague is huge and exceeds the available offers,” said Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib on Thursday evening.


And the refugees keep coming.

Dasha, a 31-year-old psychotherapist from Kyiv, arrived in Medyka, Poland’s busiest border crossing point with Ukraine, on Friday, where temperatures dropped overnight to -9 degrees Celsius (15.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

She left Kyiv on the first day of the invasion and stayed in the western city of Lviv, but has now left Ukraine on the advice of her husband, who is in the army reserve.

“It’s tough in Kyiv, they’re surrounding the city,” she told Reuters, with two small dogs on leashes.

“I’m going to Wroclaw (in southwestern Poland), I have friends there,” she said before bursting into tears. “I don’t know what to do next.”

Inna, a 55-year-old woman fleeing Dnipropetrovsk, said she drove 24 hours to reach Medyka.

“My town was bombed this morning…I just can’t speak, I’m so upset,” she sobbed, adding that she didn’t know where she would be spending Friday night.

The United Nations is basing its relief plans on 4 million refugees fleeing abroad, but has said that number may need to be revised upwards. Read more

Polish border guards said 1.5 million people had entered Poland from Ukraine since Russia began its invasion on February 24.

Nearly 365,000 people have so far fled to Romania, 219,000 to Hungary and 176,000 to Slovakia, officials said. Nearly 200,000 have reached the Czech Republic, which does not share a border with Ukraine.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a special military operation to disarm its neighbor and root out its “neo-Nazi” leaders. Kiev and its Western allies say it is a baseless excuse to invade a country of 44 million people.

($1 = 4.3689 zlotys)

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Additional reporting by Mari Saito in Medyka, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, Luiza Ilie in Bucharest, Anita Komuves and Krisztina Than in Budapest, and Jason Hovet in Prague; Writing by Gwladys Fouche Editing by Gareth Jones

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