Eastern German states ready to welcome large numbers of refugees from Ukraine

A large number of refugees from Ukraine are currently arriving in eastern Germany - and states say they are ready to help.

Eastern German states ready to welcome large numbers of refugees from Ukraine
Ukrainians, including women and children, arrive at Görlitz railway station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Danilo Dittrich

According to official figures, around 1,000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived so far in the central German states of Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia. The states, which were formally part of East Germany (GDR), are already preparing for more arrivals, though none of their interior ministries have said how many people are expected to arrive.

Saxony-Anhalt’s interior minister, Tamara Zieschang (CDU), said she believes not all of those seeking protection have been registered so far. She has asked arrivals from Ukraine to report to authorities so that they can be given information and advice.

Recent polls have shown that Germans overwhelmingly support welcoming refugees from Ukraine

Dozens of Ukrainians have already crossed into Saxony via the border with Poland near Görlitz by bus and train in recent days and it is expected that a large number of refugees will continue to arrive here first.

Saxony’s interior minister Roland Wöller (CDU) said: “It is not only an imperative of humanity, but also of European solidarity that we take in people.”

READ ALSO: ‘Welcome to Berlin’: Ukrainian refugees pour into Germany

In Saxony as a whole, more than 2,000 places are available in initial reception facilities and there are plans to expand their capacities. State premier Michael Kretschmer (CDU) said that those arriving from Ukraine should spend as short a time as possible in initial reception facilities and be quickly accommodated in towns and villages.

“The children should be able to go to kindergartens and schools. We very much want the women and men to be able to work as well, ” he said.

According to the Saxony state directorate, Ukrainian refugees should be accommodated centrally in Leipzig – where there are currently 550 places available – as here they can be better looked after, for example with interpreters.

Offers of help from the general public

The city of Chemnitz said after an appeal to locals, more than 200 offers to accommodate refugees were received, while the city of Dresden reported 91 offers of housing. According to the municipalities of Magdeburg and Halle (Saale), the large housing cooperatives have also offered to provide a total of around 300 flats.

Due to the large number of offers of help from the population, Saxony, as well as and many districts and municipalities, have set up special help portals and contact forms to better coordinate the offers.

READ ALSO: How people in Germany can support Ukraine

In the Burgenlandkreis in Saxony-Anhalt, people seeking protection are to be accommodated in a former senior citizens’ home and a hotel. And the chambers of crafts in southern and eastern Thuringia want to make the boarding schools of their educational institutions available as accommodation.

Humanitarian aid

Almost all districts of Thuringia have also set up private or voluntary initiatives for helping those affected by the war in Ukraine, including collecting donations, organising aid transports or offering housing. A large aid convoy of 14 vehicles has already returned from a first mission at the Polish-Ukrainian border.

READ ALSO: How Germany is preparing for an influx of Ukrainian refugees

In Saxony-Anhalt, too, donations of food, equipment and money are currently being collected for the victims of the war in Ukraine. The state itself is coordinating some relief measures, but there are also a number of public and private initiatives.

The state is also preparing humanitarian aid, including for the transport of injured people to hospitals.  

Interior minister Tamara Zieschang said: “This is precautionary at the moment, but unfortunately, in view of the developments in Ukraine, we cannot rule out the possibility that we will also have to provide this humanitarian aid and will do so in this case as well.”

Did you know?

Since German reunification in 1990, the term “Mitteldeutschland” (central Germany) has often been used to describe the region that extends around the triangle of the states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Sometimes it is also used to refer to the three states in their entirety, especially by the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (Central German Broadcasting), which was founded by these states in 1991.

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.