Disastrous situation – only eat once a day

Disastrous situation – only eat once a day

The Republic of Moldova, Ukraine’s small neighbor, has already taken in 300,000 war refugees and has reached its breaking point. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) has promised help. The people are to be distributed across Europe with an airlift. On site, the private aid organization Be an Angel is trying to provide people with the bare essentials. Club board member Andreas Tölke on the situation.

Mr. Tölke, you are in Moldova, where exactly?

I’m in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, about 150 kilometers from Odessa. The border crossing most frequently visited by refugees is Palanca. It is about 100 kilometers away – two hours by car.

How did your day start today?

The day didn’t start because the night didn’t end. I’ve been here for ten days now and get about four hours of sleep a night.

That is not much. What is the situation for refugees in Moldova?

Now I have to take a deep breath: catastrophic! The Moldovan government is really doing its best. She was re-elected four months ago. They are incredibly great, young politicians, who, like the German government, are completely overwhelmed by the situation.


Andreas Tölke

GBorn in Helmarshausen in 1960, Andreas Tölke was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit by the Federal President in December for his commitment to date. In 2015, Tölke repeatedly took in refugees in his apartment. In the end it was 400. He arranged about 2000 overnight stays in private accommodation. From this the association Be an Angel developed, of which he is the chairman. The association accompanies refugees on visits to the authorities. Tölke also runs the Kreuzberger Himmel restaurant, where refugees are offered training and jobs.

What exactly is the overload?

The country has fewer inhabitants than Berlin, around 2.6 million people. Quite a lot of Moldovans have taken in people privately. The average earnings of a Moldovan worker is 600 euros. With a rent of 200 euros, there are about 100 euros for heating costs. You can imagine how poor people are here. Overwhelmed and not knowing when this terrible war will end, Moldovans are wondering how long people will stay and how to feed them. Two days ago, the salt ran out in a large supermarket chain – unimaginable for Germany. The Moldovan government has asked us to relieve the families who have taken in refugees.

How is the mood towards the people who come there?

There is an unbelievably great willingness to help – like in Poland and Germany – but on the basis of a non-existent economic basis.

All refugees are accommodated privately?

No. There are also six large camps, actually sports arenas, in each of which 500 or 600 people sleep on cots. People were housed in barracks, and there are also 26 smaller camps with around 40-60 people each. The accommodation ranges from miserable to okay, the food range from unbearable to okay. Some of the camps are only provided with food once a day.

What is the border like?

The border is closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. I was on the limit. People come all day long – at minus two, three degrees and snowstorm. Ten people froze to death on the Ukrainian side of the border last night because of the long waits and the lack of supplies. The next tents, where people can warm up, are another two or three kilometers away.

What happens next, are there buses to transport people?

There is an irregular shuttle service. This is a needle eye. There are no functioning structures. We at Be an Angel are currently trying to initiate a proper shuttle service between the border and the capital. When people arrive in the capital, we try to send some of them on to Germany by bus. That’s two buses a day, but we’ve also had days with five buses. We also drive from the individual camps. We have a contact person in the government who tells us where people who want to go to Germany are. Most Ukrainians hope that the war will end soon and want to stay close to the border so they can go home. This is also the case in Poland. Of course, this means that the neighboring countries are completely overwhelmed.

What kind of people come?

Like you and I. Mainly women and children. Very few men. But also old people – the oldest couple we had the pleasure of welcoming on one of our buses were 82 and 85 years old.

How does it work, just drive up to a camp and pick up whoever is there?

No no no. In the beginning we made a mistake like this. The bus was stormed. We now have lists of names of people who have signed up to go to Germany with us. In Germany, we ask where there is capacity for admission on a daily basis. We no longer drive to Berlin because too many people are already arriving there. We drive to Wiesbaden, Sulzbach, Düsseldorf, we drive to cities all over Germany. The journey takes 36 hours. This is the time when we organize where the 59 people from our bus will be picked up. Some of them are reception camps, but there are also many private individuals.

DPA/Michael Kappeler

Refugees from Ukraine are waiting in Palanca. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited the border crossing on the same day to find out about the situation of the refugees.

How do you control who joins you?

We do a check-in when boarding the bus. We only take those who are on our lists and who can identify themselves with a passport. Otherwise we would jeopardize the entire transport system.

How many buses and staff do you have to handle that?

There are three of us here in Chisinau. There is a German who is married to a Moldovan. There is also a former Russian officer who disagrees with Putin’s policies. In Berlin we have a four-person team that prepares these operations in addition to our other work. In Poland, one person coordinates about 15 drivers.

The Federal Agency for Technical Relief now wants to bring camp beds and sleeping bags to Moldova. Have you seen them yet?

No. I once saw a single UNHCR car. Otherwise we didn’t notice any other organization.

What are the main things that are needed?

Food. We’ve had a transport of ten trucks at the Romanian-Moldovan border for 15 hours and we’re fighting to get them in. This is a Romanian problem. But we already had something like that in Bavaria.

We finance you all this?

From donations. We had major donors at the beginning who gave us a good basis. But it melts. A bus with 59 seats costs us 150 euros per person – about 8000 euros in total. Three drivers have to be paid for that. If we continue at the current pace, in ten days we will be at the end of our budget. The account balance is now around 320,000 euros. Sounds like an insane amount of money, but then it goes down very quickly.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was in Moldova on Saturday. She pledges three million euros in aid and wants to establish an airlift and a bus corridor. Have you seen Ms. Baerbock?

No, I don’t have time for that. I think the airlift is commendable, but there is room for around 2,500 people. We’ll get that number by the end of next week.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent News

Editor's Pick