Two Ukrainians fleeing a Russian invasion stood in the cold with their bags at the Hungarian border on Thursday, waiting for relatives living in Hungary to arrive and take them to safety. Csaba Bodnar, 27, and his younger brother Tamas, both from the large ethnic Hungarian minority in western Ukraine, woke to the news of the invasion and set off immediately, fearing conscription into Ukraine’s military.
“No one wants to get conscripted, no one wants to die,” said Tamas. “It’s clear that those who can, they flee.” The pair were among small groups of people leaving Ukraine at the Beregsurany crossing into Hungary, some coming from as far as the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, more than 800 km (497 miles) to the east, after Russia invaded.
The brothers had planned to start work in Hungary from next week in the town of Komarom near the Slovakian border, but the attack accelerated their plans.
Tamas had worked as a driver with his brother in the Ukrainian town of Berehove/Beregszasz.
Some people could be seen entering Hungary by car, but many came on foot, dragging suitcases over the frontier by hand.
The new arrivals in Hungary gathered at a small kiosk just a few hundred meters from the border, discussing plans and warming their hands in the cold.
A woman in her 40s wearing a winter jacket stood by the road with her 15-year-old son and just one large bag. She said she had brought her son as she feared he could be conscripted into the army if authorities lowered the age limit.
“I am afraid they will take my son,” she said.
The woman, from Ukraine’s ethnic Hungarian minority, works as a pastor in a nearby village, which she did not want to identify. She declined to give her name as she said she had to go back, not wanting to leave her parish behind. She said relatives living in Hungary would come and collect the boy.
‘I AM SCARED’
A couple, Dmitry and Ksenia, both 23, left Kyiv late on Wednesday night by car. They crossed on foot into Hungary and plan to take a train to Germany where Dmitry’s sister lives. Dmitry says he is not fleeing conscription as he has heart problems and so would be unsuitable for army service.
“I am very worried for my mother, she could not yet make it (out of Kyiv),” he adds.
Tens of thousands of Ukrainians, many of them ethnic Hungarians, have worked in Hungary for years as wages are higher in Hungary. Among them is Eva, in her 40s, who works in the kiosk where those leaving Ukraine gathered on Thursday.
She told Reuters she had sent her two boys to the Czech Republic and her partner to Slovakia, afraid that they could be conscripted into the army.
“I am scared, I fear for my family … for the men to be taken away into the army. I am a mother, how is it that I would have to send my child to die?” she said.