By Zsolt Kükedi, EESC member, Hungary  

As a delegate from an environmental organisation, I know that there is very little room for environmental reflections in the face of this human tragedy, and that people who are directly confronted with the influx of refugees appreciative even the simplest sign of interest, compassion and offer of minimal help.

Because of my regional development work, I know a lot of local mayors and county leaders who immediately and selflessly offered their community houses and common areas to refugees after the war began. Una comunità di appena 700 abitanti ha accolto più di cento ucraini, e sin dall'inizio fornisce loro vitto, alloggio e servizi di lavanderia. Subito dopo lo scoppio della guerra, non appena rientrato dalla sessione plenaria del CESE, ho scritto a 18 membri di amministrazioni locali, sindaci e presidenti di provincia dell'Ungheria orientale, chiedendo cosa stesse accadendo nei loro territori e cosa potessimo fare per aiutarli dalla lontana Budapest. I did not plan on rushing to the border myself, as in the early days enthusiastic volunteers can be more of a hindrance than a help in humanitarian work.

Nove delle 18 persone che ho contattato hanno risposto. Le altre, presumibilmente, non hanno avuto il tempo di leggere le mail o di rispondere, il che è del tutto comprensibile data la situazione. Quelli che hanno risposto, tuttavia, hanno detto che la mia lettera li ha rassicurati. Just the fact that we were thinking of them and knowing that they could turn to us was very good to hear. Qualcuno ha chiesto denaro perché aveva bisogno di coperte e detersivi. Altri mi hanno reindirizzato verso le richieste di donazioni. But overall, they promised to get in touch if the situation stabilised and they could no longer bear it financially or personally.

We also took part in another form of help: collecting medical supplies and delivering them to those in need who were unable to obtain them in this situation. We delivered stoma bags from my wife’s workplace. Stoma bags are special containers for people who are unable to excrete their bodily waste naturally due to a defect or disease affecting some parts of the digestive or urinary tract. Bodily waste is excreted through an opening, or stoma, in a specific location in the abdominal wall. Patients need a new bag every day. Transporting these vital bags was something we had not expected to do. However, our lives are complex enough to understand that in a situation like this, we also have to make unusual donations.

In our section meetings at the EESC we discussed the Ukrainian-Russian war and its impact. I was asked to call a speaker from the battlefield and a nuclear expert to understand the threat surrounding Ukrainian nuclear power stations. As I have a lot of personal acquaintances in Ukraine due to my development work, I managed to connect with Serhii Prokopenko, a young man from Kharkiv, an innovation and entrepreneurship specialist, consultant and economic researcher. He reported straight from the battlefield, from a bunker in Kharkiv where he had been sheltering following the bombing of the area shortly before our meeting. He alternated with the Hungarian nuclear expert who came after him as the internet connection stalled. Dr Zsolt Hetesi, senior research fellow at the National University of Public Administration, has been involved in environmental, energy and sustainability research since 2005. Previously, as one of the leaders of the Research Group on Sustainable Development and Resources, he had talked a lot about the crisis resulting from overpopulation and over-consumption of resources. In veste di esperto sull'esaurimento delle risorse, ha parlato della situazione e della vulnerabilità delle quattro centrali nucleari in Ucraina e delle possibilità di una catastrofe nucleare in uno qualsiasi degli impianti. He tried to reassure the audience that for the time being the world did not seem to be in immediate danger from these nuclear power plants. Successivamente è intervenuto Serhii, e ascoltandolo abbiamo potuto toccare con mano la realtà della guerra. Le sue parole sono state accolte con un caloroso applauso. The section sympathised sincerely with his account, and we were unable to focus on business as usual.

I feel that this is also a humanitarian task: to connect with the people who are isolated by the war and to throw away our apparent sense of security so that the wind of reality can reach us and we feel that we there is something we can do too, even from afar.