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Help for Ukraine: with six refugees in a van to Bavaria

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On the Monday after the war broke out in the Ukraine, Hans Haslreiter was sitting hundreds of miles away in Bavaria playing Schafkopf. The youth coach of the German Soccer Boarding School, a privately funded soccer school, had just started his vacation. However, right after the card game, the director sent out an email call for help. Haslreiter read that volunteers would be urgently needed in the coming days to bring Ukrainian refugees to Germany in a van. “Actually, I wanted to go on a skiing vacation the next day,” says Haslreiter, “but then I thought, okay, you’re doing something useful.”

The next day, he posted his plan on social media. Within hours, locals had donated so much food, hygiene items or baby clothes that Haslreiter’s van was filled to the brim when he left. In the following three days, he covered a total of 1,970 kilometers, carrying relief supplies to the Hungarian-Ukrainian border at Zahony, and six refugees to Bavaria. “I won’t soon forget this week in my life,” says Hans Haslreiter.

Help for Ukraine: with six refugees from Ukraine together in the van: "I will not soon forget this week in my life."says Hans Haslreiter.

In the van with six refugees from Ukraine: “I will never forget this week in my life,” says Hans Haslreiter.

(Photo: ouch)

In times of war, football sends impressive images of solidarity when messages and appeals appear in video cubes. On a small scale, as in the case of Hans Haslreiter, he shows his pragmatic help. The Oberliga club MSV Pampow near Schwerin, for example, picked up 51 refugees on the team bus; Countless initiatives by fans, ultra groups or the national player Matthias Ginter also organized aid deliveries. But his reports also show the difficulties that arise on the ground.

The organization is based on improvisation – and international football contacts

Haslreiter speaks of the harassment of the Hungarian border guards: “I was not allowed to enter the neutral zone to deliver the cargo. I had an interpreter on my cell phone with me, but the officers remained stubborn. Many Ukrainians say that the Hungarians are not exactly tools”. Haslreiter delivered the donations from the van 300 meters away to a Ukrainian on the Hungarian side; from there they were picked up later by another contact person.

The organization these days is just improvisation and international football contacts. Kyiv youth coach Eugen Bantysh fled his hometown for the border in western Ukraine; from there he tries to save the young footballers, his mothers and brothers-Bantysh established contact with the football boarding school. He says on the phone: “It is important that the children return to play in the club so that their integration is easier.” The football boarding school in Bad Aibling has organized a shelter for 20 refugees: three boys and one girl from Ukraine are already training with Haslreiter’s U14 team.

Sasha, 14, from kyiv, has been playing for the German soccer boarding school in the regional under-15 league for five months; he had recommended himself as a youth player for Dynamo Kyiv at a camp. After this short time, Sasha can already speak passable German on the phone, even replying with “Servus”. However, for security reasons, he does not want his last name to be published; the danger in his home country seems all too present. His mother, his sister and a friend of his fled for four days by train to Munich via Salzburg and now all live in accommodation organized by the boarding school. But: “My father is still in kyiv, I call him every day, and then I hear the sirens.”

Sasha continues to pursue two dreams: to become a professional in Germany and to be able to visit her homeland again one day. But she has given up hope of meeting all her friends again. Most of them are now scattered across Europe, he says, and one never returns: “Sasha-Oleksandr and his family were shot by a Russian tank while fleeing down an open road. They did not survive. My friend was also a good footballer in the FC Atlet. He did not live more than 15 years.”

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