Collection of information on behalf of Balkans in-site: Slaveya Nedelcheva & Theodora Vounidi
As the war in Ukraine unfolds and the whole world is astounded by its brutality and consequences, states are called upon to help in different ways and means. Mass rallies in support of the people of Ukraine, the end of the war, and the ouster of Putin are taking place all over Europe. The Eastern Balkans, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece, quickly responded to the call for assistance at governmental and social levels.
Romania is the country of the Eastern Balkans closest to Ukraine. The Romanian government has already announced that the country will accept refugees from Ukraine, the first of which have already arrived in the country. In addition, independent social groups have been set up through social media, such as the Solidari cu Ucraina (In Solidarity with Ukraine) and the Uniti Pentru Ucraina (United for Ukraine) groups Romanian citizens declare their readiness to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. At the same time, local business people are offering hotel accommodation to women and children fleeing the war. These hotels offer food and accommodation as Andra Hotel and Complexul Turistic Costești, where although places are limited, they regularly inform the public about availability.
In addition to assisting refugees who have taken refuge in the country, Romania is already collecting goods through several initiatives by organizations and collaborations with government agencies. The Romanian United Fund, supported by the Embassy of Romania to the United States, launched a fundraising campaign for Ukrainian refugees in Romania. And, City Hall of Iasi, in eastern Romania, collects food and essential goods in the city of Iasi.
UNICEF seeks to assist Romania by strengthening non-governmental organizations, government, and local authorities that have taken initiatives in the region.
In addition to the essential goods collected and the refugee housing initiatives, many other initiatives take care of legal proceedings, such as the local law firm Grecu & Asociatii and animal care, by Clubul de Excelenta Canina Patrocle Brasov, Casa lui Patrocle, and others.
Note that Romania has declared a state of emergency for fear of Putin’s threats.
A few days after the beginning of the military conflict in Ukraine, various campaigns and initiatives were already set up. Many organizations and self-organized initiative groups work on the field to provide direct assistance for transportation, accommodation, and material and financial support for the people who have already arrived from Ukraine.
According to the latest data from the Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees (SAR), more than 40,000 (as of March 11, 2022) Ukrainians have entered Bulgaria since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Most of them are accommodated in private addresses or hotels for free.
Currently, the institutions are trying to assist the evacuation from Ukraine and the accommodation in Bulgaria. They also try to facilitate the regulations on other legal and personal issues of the Ukrainian citizens, as the government has already announced that Bulgaria will accept refugees from Ukraine.
Thousands of Bulgarians (as the author Slaveya Nedelcheva) have registered as volunteers on the BG4UA (Bulgaria for Ukraine) initiative platform www.BG4UA.com, willing to help by providing accommodation, financial, legal, and all kinds of assistance to the Ukrainians who wish to leave Ukraine for Bulgaria, or are in Bulgaria and would like to stay. Facebook groups have tens or even hundreds of thousands of members (e.g. “Допомога українським біженцям в Болгарії/Помощ за украинските бежанци”) offering transport, accommodation, food, clothes, jobs, and all kinds of help to war refugees. Many people are expressing solidarity and support for the Ukrainians through social media.
Numerous initiatives and NGOs raise material and monetary donations to help the victims. Organizations that raise material donations are also committed to transporting them to Ukraine. State institutions are also open to assisting other organizations in providing a corridor for driving the aid. The Bulgarian Red Cross is organizing a national donation campaign. In parallel with the state and NGOs’ initiatives, municipalities, private hotels and households are offering free accommodation. Medical institutions are offering free healthcare. At the same time, educational and scientific institutions are expressing solidarity and are offering different kinds of help. IT companies and other businesses are offering jobs. In the field of communication, mobile operators in Bulgaria have abolished roaming for messages and calls to Ukraine. The Bulgarian State Railways will provide free transportation by rail in the country of citizens arriving from Ukraine, and there are also initiatives and organizations involved in providing legal assistance and preparing information (in different languages) on the procedures for obtaining refugee status and the rights of those who have acquired it in Bulgaria.
Greece was quick to respond to Ukraine’s call for help with the Government’s decision to send humanitarian aid and military equipment, which was a point of contention between the Government and the opposition.
Social initiatives in Greece are more localized at the level of Municipalities. In many Municipalities in Attica and throughout the country, they are already collecting essential goods to be sent to Ukraine. In addition, the courier company Hellenic Post also contains items to be sent to Ukraine.
The agency also has taken a crucial initiative that operates rides between Greece and Ukraine. The first bus full of medicines, clothes, and food has already left for the country.
Like the rest of the Eastern Balkan countries, Greece will provide one-year protection status along with work and medical care rights to Ukrainian refugees entering Greece, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum. In cooperation with the Ukrainian Embassy in Greece, those who enter from the border entrance of the Bastion without identification documents will be provided with documents for their temporary residence.
According to the Minister of Tourism, Greece has decided to show its solidarity with the Ukrainian refugees leaving their country by creating 50,000 jobs in the tourism sector for Greek expatriates and refugees. Last year, the 50,000 jobs were not covered by the domestic market and may be available to Ukrainians forced to leave their country.
**The support that comes from the official institutions is important in all three countries but the biggest support comes from the PEOPLE and their call for PEACE. And all these initiatives are just the beginning.
The assistance provided to Ukrainian citizens from the Eastern Balkan countries and all states around the world is remarkable and shows that goodness and solidarity are contagious.**
This article was originally published in Balkans in-site on March 6, 2022.