Hungarian civilians raise funds to buy equipment for the Transcarpathian units of the Ukrainian army
It is estimated that at least 400 ethnic Hungarian soldiers from Transcarpathia have been serving in the Ukrainian army since the Russian invasion last year. They do not receive any material support from the Budapest government, but a group of Hungarian civilians have so far collected more than 100 million forints in donations for them, which have been used to send drones, generators and other equipment to units on the frontline. We spoke to the organizers of the ’Transcarpathian Dragon Supplier’ and Hungarian soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
“The first thing you fight for is your family. Then comes the village or town where you live, then the district, then the county, all the way to the country,” said Viktor Traski, a volunteer soldier of Hungarian origin in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, when asked what motivates members of the ethnic Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia to fight on the side of Ukraine. He added that he knows how the “so-called Russian liberators” behaved in Transcarpathia during the Second World War, how they treated Hungarians, including his own ancestors, who were deported to the East for forced labor. “If it had come to the point where they reached Transcarpathia, it would have been no different,” he said.
In addition to aid provided by governments (notably, the Hungarian government refused to send any equipment to the Armed Force of Ukraine, unlike every other NATO country in the region), civilians have also been fundraising for units of the Ukrainian army in many foreign countries. The aim of these initiatives is to get vital equipment other than weapons to the front.
According to Mr Traski, about 3% of all equipment used at the front comes from civilians.
Viktor Traski’s (who was a mathematician at the National University of Uzhhorod before the war) unit, the 128th Mechanized Mountaineering Brigade, is one of the units for which Hungarian volunteers collected equipment.
The group organizing the collection in Hungary, the ’Transcarpathian Dragon Supplier’, started with a small-scale fundraising for a few thousand Euros – now, after several successful fundraisers they plan to register as an official charity foundation.
The initiative’s name refers to the 68th Territorial Defence Battalion, known as the “Transcarpathian Dragons”, a unit made up mainly of volunteer soldiers from the Transcarpathia, a region bordering Hungary where most of the ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine live.
The most notable member of the unit is Sándor Fegyir, a university professor from Uzhhorod who was later appointed Ambassador to Budapest. In addition to the 68th, there are also Hungarians serving in several units of the army and border guards, many of them in the most dangerous places of the war, such as Bahmut, Herszon and Zaporizhzhia counties.
Balázs Trautmann, one of the coordinators of Dragon Supplier is a former military journalist who had been following the events in Ukraine since 2014 and the full-scale invasion of 2022. The war, he said, was a “subject of work” for him for a long time, but after he changed jobs, it became more personal for him, and that’s when he became involved in what later turned into a fundraising group.
As he said, the Fegyir and his fellow soldiers first told them that they needed three battery chargers, which cost about a million forints (2600 Euros) total.
“The first one million was raised in 28 hours, but people kept sending money. We had to decide whether to stop it now or, because there is a need at the front and there is a willingness at home to help, to keep rolling it in. This has become a completely civilian initiative that has raised roughly 142 million forints to date.”
In recent months, the donations have included clothing, thermal imaging cameras, rangefinders and civilian drones. Drones for reconnaissance, which can be bought from civilian shops, are particularly needed – the lifespan of a drone on the front line is less than 8 hours, while the Russians are increasingly using the technology.
In video interviews, Viktor Traski and Péter Filipovics, two Hungarian soldiers from Transcarpathia, told Átlátszó why civilian donations are often more useful than supplies from the army, and what is most needed on the front line. Volunteers from the Dragon Supply explained what motivated them to start collecting and how they can get their supplies to the front.
Text: Zalán Zubor — Video: Bence Bodoky. Click here for the Hungarian version of this story. Cover image: Kárpátaljai Sárkányellátó / Facebook.