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Refugee shelter closing in Budapest opens possibilities for Vynohradiv shelter in Ukraine

Updated: May 15, 2023


Not only brand new staff has a value when it comes to helping people. But recycling used items has it's unwritten rules, when it comes to being charitable. I have seen many unwanted items, brought to us, which were broken, or not usable for the purpose we were collecting. (For example, a scuba diving mask, an ice skater kit or high heals are not helping refugees fleeing from war. And these are real examples of stuff we received.) Also when donating, ask yourself a question: would I give this item to your best friend, to use? If it's broken, dirty, missing a piece, please consider this question. Make sure it's nice, it's clean, it's in one piece. If it has any fault, ask the recipient if they still accept it, despite it's fault. This story is - i hope - a good example of how to meet needs with items offered.


When I've got the news that a downtown Vitae refugee shelter is closing down, and all items must go, I agreed with Marci Elődi (Hahó Önkéntesek volunteering ) that we should find out if we can shift it to Ukraine, to an other aid point. I immediately phoned Lyudmila Svoreny (Ukraine), to see if they would find it useful. They cook daily for a local refugee center, giving home to over 300 people, many of them are kids with their mums. She was delighted. For me, it was important, that such a value won't go to waste, and possibly we can offer kids in Ukraine some better sleeping solutions, than sleeping on the floor on mattresses


The Vitae Youth Hostel is located in the 7th district, on the 4th floor of a townhouse. Because of it's good location, it is very popular with young travelers coming to Budapest. When the war broke out, the owner of the hostel, Mr Iain Wolstenholme agreed that the 3rd floor and 2nd floor (empty) flats to be turned into a refugee place for Ukrainian families. A young team of civil volunteers Lapo Moreau, Simbie Yau, Kruti Pabari, Weston McMahon, Niklas Friese, Tamara Stojanovic started to operate the shelter. The hostel staff would organize more volunteers to run the extra work load, people would donate the needed items, beds, etc. After the first few month of operation, the Hungarian Red Cross took over the responsibility of financing it's operation. But it all came to end on the 23rd of April 2023, as the owner decided to sell these properties, and funding stopped to cover expenses. They advertised that items could be collected, anyone is welcome. Vitae Shelter in Budapest has been welcoming Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war. Over 3000 people have come through its doors. They deserve a huge applause for this this kind help. The story of the shelter and it's activities listed on this facebook page:


We were not the first ones to come and recycle the furnishing, Actually we were almost late. By the time we arranged the volunteering event to dismantle the beds, collect and sort the bed linens, someone has collected half of the bunk beds. But we still had the 2nd floor, 17 beds to take.

We had so far 3 days of volunteering :

6th of May (Saturday) - sorting all bed linens, pillows, kitchen items, collecting them into one central location

10th of May (Wednesday) - dismantling 17 bunk beds, folding and packing all linen products, and carrying them down to the ground floor common courtyard for easier pick up the next day

11th of May (Thursday) - The Hungarian Reformed Church arrived, with Viktor Ágoston, (I'm happy to say now a friend, we can always count on his help when it comes to moving large items across to Ukraine.

In total, we saved: 17 bunk beds, 7 large lockers (40 people capacity), 3 fridges, 1 large commercial triple sink metal unit, 50 bed covers, 25 pillows, 25 bed sheets, 40 duvets, several electric extension cables, lamps. The estimated value of 4.000 Euro (if bought new)


It's very important for me, that handing over donated items should be organized, so it can be easily used when it gets to the destination. Yes, it takes a long time to sort, fold, box, label everything. But it's a good standard I'm aiming to keep. Makes me happy, it looks good visually, and it tells those who receive it, we care. It's not only unwanted items. It's value, that can live on.

To show you an example :

We started with a pile of clean bed linen, duvets, pillows, sheets, just in one big mountain. The easiest solution would've been just to use bin bags, and fill them up. Instead, we first went trough each one of them, checked for marks, tears, stains. Then we folded the perfect ones, sorted them by color, and boxed them up. Also tied all the duvets, and sorted them into blue bags. All boxes and packs were labelled, naming the items, plus the quantity.



- Vitae Youth Hostel ( Tamara Stojanovic)

- Hahó Önkéntesek (Marci Elődi coordinator)

- Volunteer Center Vinogradov by Lyudmila Svoreny (Zakarpats'Ka Oblast' Vinogradov, Ukraine)

- Magyar Református Szeretetszolgálat by Viktor Ágoston (International relations)

- Net of Hope by Zsuzsanna Bozo (Volunteering, founding & transport coordinator)


The share of workload is an interesting subject for me, as this project is entirely on civil volunteering base, different groups working together. We had 11 volunteers, sorting this job so far, plus a team from the Hungarian Reformed Church.

The first scary thought you have when organzing such volunteering project is: will we have enough volunteers to do this challenge? I estimated the minimum of 10 people needed, with some basic Ikea skills to dismantle the beds, then the same number for moving the items when tranport arrives. How did we do it? Marci Elődi (Hahó Önkéntesek) posted on Facebook the call for volunteers. It's a really active volunteering group, headed up by Marci.

I also sent out private messages, posted on my profile, and shared in larger community sites, including Expats in Budapest helping Ukrainians, Ukraine Refugee Aid Hungary, Segítségnyújás (Ukrajna). These groups I find the most helpful when we need hands on. This is how we ended up with this fantastic team of helpers :

10th OF MAY (Wednesday) EVENT


Hahó Önkéntesek : Eszter Greskovics, Anna Séfel, Miskolczy István, Zoltán Horváth, Marci Elődi

Expats Helping Ukrainians : Dominic Arbuthnott, Talieh Ghorashi

Donation Center Kisfaludy : Krisztián Kaszás, Zsuzsanna Bozo, Attila Hunyadi, Kostey Kondrashin, Irina Konopatskaya

11th OF MAY (Thursday) EVENT


Hahó Önkéntesek : Marci Elődi, Zoli Nógrádi

Expats Helping Ukrainians : Dominic Arbuthnott

Donation Center Kisfaludy : Zsuzsanna Bozo, Kostey Kondrashin

Hungarian Reformed Church transport team, by : Viktor Ágoston (plus two helpers)




I've met Lyudmila Svoreny on our volunteering trip to help inner refugee children in the nearby children's home. We were there to see how they help the hundreds of people arriving to their city. She and her husband before the war run a charity organization helping kids to get hearing aids, also a succesfull boxing club for young boys. But the war broke out, and they decided to get seriously involved in helping both the new arrivals, as well as their own boys, fighting the war on the frontline. They are still very active sending regular food, clothes to the war zone, they drive 2-3 busses each month full of essential supply of food, medicine, clothes. But they also active locally, they cook daily hot lunch for over 300 inner refugees, and distribute clothes and other items to families. The refugee shelter was designed to last for a couple of month, not for years. Now that people who stay there has nowhere to go, they need a more permanent solution. This is why it was my first thought to ask her, if they could use the beds and other items leaving the Vitae closing shelter in Budapest. This seems like the best solution.


1) Unfortunately the mattresses were not in a condition that we could take them. (Wish they had used protectors to save them from getting dirty). So we need 34 new mattresses and protector covers to complete the beds. Total cost: 662.320 HUF (1.840 Eur) for 34 complete sets

Link to Ikea cheepest product:

2) Also we are calling for help to cover the cost of transport between Budapest and Vynohradiv. The support should be paid directly to the Hungarian Reformed Church, which is 200.000 HUF. (650 Eur)

3) We are also looking for support to cover the cost of petrol for a team of volunteers to go across to Ukraine, to help build back the beds. 2 cars x 60.000 HUF = 120.000 HUF (500 Eur)

Once we have this covered, we are ready to organize the volunteering event in Ukraine, to build these beds back again. This would support a number of people currently have no home in Ukraine, as they stay at this sheltered accommodation in Vynohradiv. If you can, please help, by sharing this post, of contributing to the purchase of the actual items. Get in touch if you want to help!

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