By Uganda Online Correspondent
The train from Chop arrived at the quaint Hungarian village of Záhony almost two hours late. When it eventually pulled up to platform one, medics and station workers met each passenger before gently escorting them inside. There were children, mothers, grandparents, and two cats, all arriving from neighboring Ukraine, a country faced with war since Russia’s invasion began on Thursday.
There were no signs of relief, only a determination to carry on. Peoples’ bodies had arrived in safety, but their minds were still at home with fathers and brothers on the front line, and elderly relatives bunkered down after refusing to leave. Foreign students quickly got on the phone to tell loved ones at home that they has escaped danger.
More than 85,000 people have crossed into Hungary since February 24. Along the 135km (84-mile) frontier, refugees are met with hot chai, locally made sandwiches, and logistical help embassies can be rung, tickets booked for free, and even children entertained.
Nonetheless, the scale of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine was largely unexpected and people were quickly forced to leave their homes.
According to UNHCR, more than 670,000 people have fled Ukraine in the past six days. The agency has warned “the situation looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century” if the Russian assault continues. Compared with the situation on the Polish border, where people have had to wait up to 60 hours in freezing temperatures to cross to safety, Hungary’s crossings have been considerably calmer.
Hours after Russia’s first attack on Ukrainian soil, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán reversed Budapest’s hardline migration policies.“We’re prepared to take care of them [Ukrainians], and we’ll be able to rise to the challenge quickly and efficiently,” he said in a statement.
Hungarian troops were deployed to the border as early as February 22 to reinforce the area and carry out “ humanitarian tasks”. Despite this open-door policy and Hungary’s support for sanctions on Russia, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announced on Monday that the country will not allow lethal aid to transit its borders en route to forces in Ukraine.