Zoltán Szilvási

We cross the border in a matter of minutes, receiving a very different picture than three weeks ago in Beregsurány, when only a few days had passed since the start of the Russian invasion, and Ukrainian and Transcarpathian women, children, Nigerians, Indians, Pakistanis and Tunisians were trying to walk in crowded lines. and who else knows what kind of exotic country students studying in Ukraine are towards Hungary, which means security. Leaving their house, their property, the work of their lives behind, with some suitcases, handbags, in the way of modern-day Courage moms.

Of course, the situation is not a whither rosy today than it was at the end of February, only in the meantime the cruel law of life prevailed; man slowly becomes immune to the immeasurable suffering, the tragic fates of man, and also the fact that the first, second, third, and many waves of refugees have subsided.

Even if Ukraine was not completely emptied, but more than ten million had already left their homes, including internal refugees, Hungary alone received half a million unfortunates who saved their lives alone.

The bridge in Záhony, where the last Soviet soldier left Hungary on June 19, 1991 in the person of Lt. Gen. Viktor Silov, commander of the Southern Army Group, is now almost empty. Our car rolls unhindered into the territory of the neighboring country, which has been called Ukraine, not the Soviet Union, for three decades, although the resurrection of the imperial idea in Moscow is doing everything these days and weeks to turn back the wheel of time and history.

However, thank God, the Carpathians have not yet been crossed by the war, if all goes well, they will not, although the sight of heavily armed Ukrainian soldiers wearing camouflage clothes and bulletproof vests ready with an AK-47 machine gun on their shoulders is not a drop. comforting.

Aside from the sight of sandbags, soldiers, armored combat vehicles – but how can we ignore them ?! -, everything was the same as on May 30, 2017, when I was on my way to the Avangard Stadium in Uzhhorod, the silver anniversary of the first official Ukraine-Hungary international football match, in the wake of the bus carrying the Hungarian old boys national team. Or, I’m lying, it’s not the same. There was an endless line of cars on the border at the time, and after five to six hours of suffering, one could only get away with it if a few crispy banks discreetly changed hands.

Now the border crossing is almost empty, but the condition of the roadway is unchanged; And, as Attila Révész, the sports director of Kisvárda, who is in the third place in the NB I table, who drives our car and travels regularly, the potholes were patched not so long ago. But even with the mild winter, the freezes have depreciated the pavement in days, maximum care is needed if a single passenger is to avoid breaking the axle. From my high school literature studies, it is clear that Petőfi is from 1847 “Travel Letters”He also reported on Uzhhorod with a depressing opinion in.

One or the other pit is so deep that it has a separate postcode, it takes at least half an hour to reach the provincial headquarters of Uzhhorod, with a population of 115,000, just 25 kilometers from the border, which is almost entirely inhabited by Hungarian Kistéglás.

One hundred and fifteen thousand, in peacetime.

But now one hundred and eighty thousand people are crowded in the coastal city of Ung, according to Deputy Governor Ivan Duran, owner of Hotel Old Continent in the center of Uzhhorod – or as it is written in Ukrainian: Gotel – and not incidentally the president of the Transcarpathian Football Association.

After the outbreak of the war, about five thousand people arrived daily from the remote, war-torn regions of Ukraine, Kharkiv, Chernigiv, Kyiv, Krivyi Rih. I accommodated many of them in the Old Continent, we set up a folk kitchen, where from eight in the morning to eight in the morning there are a hundred volunteer chefs and kitchens, we feed five thousand refugees from aid sources, partly from Hungary, says the foreman as we enter the building at an entrance guarded by an outside gunman.

The rush of rotation inside is huge, almost exclusively for women and children. The Hungarian source, which was also mentioned by the Deputy Governor, includes the food delivered to Uzhgorod by Révész and Kisvárda FC, and the sports director lying in Dercen.

Uzhhorod provides a rather neglected sight anyway, not only now, but in general. It’s not all a consequence of the war, it was just as ruined in the city five years when I last visited here. The condition of the pavement is under criticism, the plaster is falling from the walls of the buildings and the blocks of flats, but the cafés are crowded everywhere, especially on the two banks of Ung, which bisects the city, the Botanichna Naberezhna.

In Ukraine, they are now beginning to abandon the Cyrillic script, and the anti-Russian patriotic war has only accelerated this process.

The effort to eradicate the common past, the forcing of the Latin spelling, is the embodiment of the intention that Ukraine belongs emphatically to Europe, as opposed to its eastern neighbor, the Great Slavic Brotherhood. .

One has the impression that no one is working here, there is some basis for this perception, as everyone is trying to leave Ukraine, and the only reason for this is not the war, which is causing terrible suffering, but at least the poor state of the national economy.

We will visit the venue of the first Ukrainian-Hungarian football match in 1992 and the 2017 silver jubilee meeting, the Avangard Stadium, which is the home of the local Minaj, who is currently taking a break from the Ukrainian NB I in the Premier Meat.

From here, we coordinate with Mr. Ivan Duran the care, meals and accommodation of the refugees – says Sándor Lauriciusz, the initiator and manager of the Hungarian Foundation for Refugees. “Our city is full, and there are more people than we can comfortably accommodate, but this is an emergency.” Thank goodness there have been no air alarms for two days now, but the sirens sounded three times on Wednesday, for example, everyone rushed to the shelter. Fortunately, missiles and bombs did not arrive, the war in its terrible reality has not yet arrived in Transcarpathia, hopefully it will not.

There are plenty of cars in the city, not only “prehistoric” Ladák and Zsigulik – because there are a good number of them – but also many BMW and Mercedes SUVs, but most of them have registration plates in Kiev, Luhansk, Hersonissos, Donetsk, Chernivtsi and Lviv.

Entrance to the city police station reinforced with sandbags, a real fighting position,

As we drive out of the city, we pass gas stations, 35-40 hryvnia per liter of diesel and gasoline, depending on quality. (One hryvnia is 12 forints.) The era of the legendary cheap fuel in Ukraine is over, it is no longer worth crossing the border to refuel, especially since the quality of benthic here is said to be lower than in Hungary.

We are heading towards Munkács, the roads are still in a critical condition, patching everywhere to make the asphalt frozen in winter relatively passable. The famous Munkács castle appears from the right, the fortress built on a 250-meter-high hill could not be taken even by the Tartars of Batu Khan, but it actually entered Hungarian history between 1686 and 1688, when Ilona Zrínyi successfully defended the fortress against the imperial troops for two years. .

We cross Latorca, also known from the weather and water level reports, and then arrive in Dercen, a village 98 percent inhabited by Hungarians, where the Munkács Football Academy, founded and operated by the Kisváda Football Academy, has been operating for the second year in a row.

Here, in this conference room, we accommodated the refugee children, you can see the bus in the back, the young footballers of Kryvbas arrived with it, we accommodated them and fed them at our academy – explains the professional director Zoltán Szilvási. – When our academy was built, the authorities did not take a good look at the fact that a Hungarian inscription on the facade proclaimed the name of the Munkács Football Academy, but when we received the young people and coaches of Kryvbas, they were immediately relieved. After all, Krivyi Rih Volodymyr Zelensky’s hometown is of symbolic importance in helping the footballers there.

Mr. Szilvási takes us around the beautiful facility, which is still under development, the ground of the indoor hall is now being prepared. The picture is idyllic in the bright sunshine, no one would think that a bloody war is taking place a few kilometers away, beyond the passages of the Carpathians. But when it comes to mixing with guys from different parts of the country, we are immediately confronted with the reality of today in Ukraine. Many came to Transcarpathia with their families, but many of the boys’ parents, relatives and siblings remained there in Krivyi Rih, Chernivtsi, Hersonissos, Kiev.

Zoltán Szilvási

Photo: Munkács Football Academy

We keep in touch with them on the phone, thank goodness, they’re still safe, but the situations are incomparably more miserable than for us here in Dercen, ”says one of the guys when we ask them to interrupt the match for a minute.

The students of Kryvbas will soon round up and head for Valencia, where they will be hosted by the local club thanks to international cooperation. Kids can’t wait to leave, which is no wonder, as the shores of the Mediterranean are a paradise on earth for a Ukrainian guy.

We walk slowly into the main building. In the living and education department, living rooms, conference rooms and dining blocks have been set up. On the ground floor there are gyms, a canteen, a medical and rehabilitation center, a sauna, changing rooms, classrooms, a laundry room and storage rooms.

In the immediate vicinity of the main building are six standard – including two artificial grass – football pitches, which are already used regularly by students. The academic teams performed successfully in the fall season. Four MFA age groups (U14, U15, U16 and U17) took second place out of six participants in the Ukrainian Children and Youth Elite Football League. This entitles MFA to compete for the finals in the spring season in the company of teams such as Carpathian Lviv, UFK-Carpathian, Dinamo Kyiv, Sahtar Donetsk and Dnipro. The MFA adult team will play in the amateur league of Ukraine, where they will finish fourth in the table after the first part of the season, but now, of course, the point hunt is paused.

Inside, the state-of-the-art medical and rehabilitation department is presented by Dr. Lénárt, the chief medical officer of the academy in Hungary, when we shudder because the siren is right, everyone starts fleeing back to the basement, which has been transformed into an air cellar.

It’s an air alarm for the most part, real, not a test. In two minutes, everyone descends to the ground, but after ten minutes, some of us take to the surface.

We take the air alarm seriously because it has to be taken seriously, but so far no bombs or rockets have been fired here in Transcarpathia, says Director Szilvási. – There was a day when the siren sounded in Uzhgorod at four in the morning, if a rocket fired somewhere on the other side of the Carpathians, we rush to the shelter because we don’t know where it will hit. Of course, there is also a kind of psychological role to this constant state of readiness, which is not really needed here in Transcarpathia. But the war – the war.

Yes, war is really war. Even if, fortunately, he had not yet drifted through the Carpathians. However, tens and hundreds of thousands of refugees and dense airstrikes are always reminding locals, both Hungarians and Ukrainians, of the bitter reality.

(Cover image: People fleeing the Russo-Ukrainian war in a refugee shelter set up in the gymnasium of a grammar school in Uzhhorod on March 11, 2022. Photo: János Nemes / MTI)

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