Central European volunteers make region a 'safe home' for Ukrainians

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BEREGSURANY, Hungary/WARSAW, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Volunteers across Central Europe sprung into action on Sunday to help Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, donating mountains of supplies, transporting new arrivals from the border and providing what one official called a "safe second home".

After seeing television images showing Ukrainians waiting to enter the European Union and an uncertain future, Roland Ring, 46, drove nearly four hours on Sunday to the border to offer transport to those travelling to shelters around Hungary.

"I was so angry with myself as it took me such a long time to do something with the family car just parked in the garage," Ring told Reuters in the village of Beregsurany, where the mayor has turned an old mansion into an accommodation centre.

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People fleeing war in Ukraine poured into Central Europe on Sunday, with queues at border crossings stretching back for kilometres on the fourth day of a Russian invasion that has pushed nearly 400,000 people to seek safety abroad. read more

With men of conscription age prevented from leaving Ukraine, mostly women and children have arrived at the border in eastern Poland, Slovakia and Hungary and in northern and northeastern Romania in the hope of finding safety in what the Polish interior minister said would be a second home.

"I want to make a clear declaration to all Ukrainians fighting for their freedom: Poland will be a safe place for your wives, your children and your mothers if they come to our country," Poland's Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski. "Poland will be a place of refuge, a shelter and safe second home."

Central Europeans sought to do just with volunteers flocking to social media to organise collections, transport, accommodation and any other potential help. Some collection centres had so many offers they had to turn away donations.

At a Warsaw collection centre volunteers sifted through rolls of toilet paper, candles, bed sheets, canned goods and other supplies to prepare care packages while the manager of a nearby hotel offered accommodation to a group of Ukrainians that included a 14-day old baby.

"My hotel is turning into a warehouse," said Magda Jasinska, the manager of Hotel Cyprus, some 30 km (20 miles) from Warsaw. "We regularly employee Ukrainians so this is a very close issue for us."

"A midwife came forward, because she read somewhere that we have a small child. A psychologist came to us and said that he could come right away to help these people."

At borders, authorities set up makeshift reception centres in tents where people could get medical aid and process asylum papers, while thousands of volunteers drove up to the crossings with donations of collected food, blankets and clothes.

In Romania, a Facebook page with 175,000 members generated 10,000 posts in the past 24 hours that allows Ukrainians to request help and volunteers can immediately respond.

Czech resident Arthur Montaque Brown was on his way to Britain to pick up an ambulance purchased through donations along with a tent field hospital he aims to deliver to medical workers in Lviv.

"Donations have spiralled in the last few days," said Brown, a former British soldier who provides medical training in conflict areas. "Our plan is to link up with colleagues in Lviv and set up a field hospital.

"We hope to get there before things get too bad."

(This story refiles to fix typo in headline, no change to text.)

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Additional reporting by Luiza Ilie in Bucharest, Writing by Michael Kahn, editing by Angus MacSwan

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