As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, masses of people are reported to have left Ukraine for neighboring countries, including Hungary. There is already huge congestion at many border crossings. The Hungarian Defense Forces are currently expecting a potential 600,000 refugees from Ukraine.
The Illyés Gyula Hungarian National Theater in Beregszász (Berehovo) was set to perform István Örkény’s classic absurd war novel, The Toth Family tonight at the National Theater in Budapest. Unfortunately, the show has been canceled, as all the men in the theater group received their draft letters for the Ukrainian army.
This was revealed in an interview by Attila Vidnyánszy, director of the Hungarian National Theater, who is himself from Beregszász, the city considered the cultural center of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine.
What is happening now is a disaster,”
said the Kossuth and Jászai Mari Prize-winning theater director.
As Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine on Thursday at dawn, several Central European countries announced that they are prepared to shelter Ukrainians who are fleeing the war. In addition to the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia, Hungary was also among those ready to welcome Ukrainians. As nearly 150,000 ethnic Hungarians live in the country, it is particularly important for Hungary to ensure the safe entry of refugees who are trying to get away from the conflict.
On Wednesday, Defense Minister Tibor Benkő said that Hungary is prepared to accept tens of thousands of refugees from Ukraine.
On the same day, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán visited the Integrated Operations Center of the Hungarian Defense Forces, and posted a video on social media of his visit. In the footage, a map in one of the army’s operations rooms briefly appears, showing that Hungary is expecting around 600,000 refugees in total arriving from the east.
As all men up to the age of 60 might be drafted to the Ukrainian army soon, many people have already packed their bags and are heading for Hungary. According to on-site reports, people in Kárpátalja (Zakarpattia) have already rushed the stores, gas stations, and banks, leaving en masse to Hungary.
Meanwhile, huge queues are forming at the Hungarian-Ukrainian border crossings: at the two largest border checkpoints each – Záhony-Csap and Beregsurány-Astély – a 1-hour traffic jam is reported in passenger traffic. According to the correspondent of Hungarian state television M1, reporting near the railway station in Csap, it was mainly young men fearing being conscripted who are now fleeing from Ukraine.
The uncertainty and fear in the region of Kárpátalja have grown enormously, and panic starts taking hold,”
the editorial staff of Kárpáthír told Magyar Hang. According to the paper, “many people are fleeing, the roads crossing the border are full, people can no longer board trains at the Csap-Záhony border crossing. Families with small children are waiting to get through.”
To add to the chaos, mobile networks in Ukraine are down and internet connections have become unreliable due to the strain caused by the heavy traffic and the Russian attacks.
Meanwhile, the Hungarian Defense Forces have started to deploy military units along the Ukrainian-Hungarian border. However, it has not yet been revealed how they plan to accommodate the refugees.
Featured photo illustration by Vadim Ghirda/AP/MTI