It was August 1989 when Father Imre Kozma opened the garden of his parish in Zugliget to nearly 50,000 people who came from East Germany. The founder of the Order of Malta’s charitable services in Hungary has since seen at least four other humanitarian crises, from the one following the 1991 Romanian revolution, to the war in Yugoslavia, to the transit of hundreds of thousands of refugees through Hungary. Syrians who were going to Germany, and today, that of Ukrainian refugees.
“We help everyone, we are not a political organization, we are a Christian humanitarian service. We do not want to read between the lines of politics, we give assistance”, explains Monsignor Kozma, now 82, at the headquarters of the Order in Hungary, which is located on the banks of the Danube, exactly opposite the famous, monumental Hungarian parliament. “In the course of all these years I have written to hundreds of deputies, ministers and prime ministers, of all political orientations. And all of them have always seen us positively”. On the opposite wall, the black and white photo of the East Germans’ tents who were greeted by the priest, who will leave for Poland tomorrow to deliver an ambulance.
And even today the Order does its utmost for Ukrainians who leave their country and also for those who have remained in Ukraine, while fleeing the conflict zones. “Many want to go to Western Europe, but about 2-300.000, we calculate, will remain in Hungary, because it is close to Ukraine and from here it is easier to return – says Gyori-Dani Lajos, administrator and vice president of the Order of Malta. in Hungary – Then there are about a million internally displaced people in western Ukraine and these people could arrive at some point. ”
The organization offers help to those who have nothing, to those who go direct elsewhere, and works to assist those who want to stay integrated with long-term support. And no matter the nationality, he underlines: “In 2015 there was a politically charged atmosphere, today it is easier for us, we can save lives.
Together with the Ukrainians, 20,000 foreign students arrived, mainly Africans, and their countries. they helped them to repatriate, and those who did not receive support from their particularly poor countries stayed here, especially Nigerians.
They are housed in university colleges, they are helped to continue their studies here. “The Order offers assistance, as well as at the border with Ukraine and inside the country at war, also in various points of the Hungarian territory, ready to open other hotspots for those who might arrive and for those who stay in Hungary.
In the sports hall called Bok, in the center of the capital, the immense work of registration, sorting, help to those arriving here takes place. Doctors, cooks, volunteers who help with transport and also an info point for those who want to look for work.
Many women with children, many Roma, “but most of them will not go further, they do not plan to go to other countries”, explains Lajos. Few men who leave Ukraine in war – from 18 to 60 years are called to arms – but among them is Gregory, a native of Kharkiv, a teacher who arrived in Budapest after days and days of dangerous travel.
“I keep teaching my kids online, I don’t know where they are, they know where I am. My goal is to go to the US, but I have no idea how to do it. I have friends in Lubbock, Texas.”
Andryj, a sailor on cruise ships who arrived yesterday in a refuge of the Order of Malta, one of the three in Budapest, left Ukraine, in particular Odessa. “I took the ship because I have a contract, and I can earn money to support my family, who are there. Also because we can’t all abandon Odessa.” REPRODUCTION RESERVED © Copyright ANSA
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