A former New York governor is working with a Hungarian company to provide modular homes for internally displaced refugees in Ukraine.
The first shipment of about 20 foldable units arrived on April 3 in Solomonovo in Zakarpattia Oblast, a village just across Ukraine’s border with Hungary and Slovakia.
The houses were set up near a factory that has served as a temporary shelter for more than 100 refugees, many of them women and children, former New York Gov. George Pataki told CNN.
Pataki’s foundation, the George E. Pataki Leadership and Learning Center, paid Hungary-based company Continest to build, ship and set up the units which are designed to be easy to move and deploy.
“We don't have the resources to provide the quite literally hundreds of thousands that are needed across Ukraine, but we're gonna do everything we can to provide as many as we can,” Pataki said. “We're providing the first step. We just hope that this serves as a model.”
“In the factory, people are safe – they have heat, they have running water, but they don't have any privacy,” said Vidor Kis-Márton, CEO of Continest. “This is what we can offer them.” He said another ten units from Continest will continue on to the town of Bucha.
Housing crisis for displaced people
Pataki’s foundation has made repeated trips to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion, delivering food and other supplies. He said they quickly realized there was an intense need for housing for displaced Ukrainians.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that at least 7.1 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced by the conflict. More than 4.2 million people have left Ukraine since the invasion began in late February, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Pataki expressed concern that charitable organizations and nonprofits are undertaking much of the work to house internally displaced people -- and that humanitarian aid from the United States and other countries hasn’t yet played a sizeable role, at least in the regions he’s visited.
Kis-Márton hopes the units will remain in place until serious efforts can begin to rebuild homes in Ukraine -- something he doesn’t predict will happen overnight. In the meantime, he hopes the modular houses will offer Ukrainians safety and dignity while the country rebuilds.
“We are already thinking about rebuilding,” Kis-Márton said. “The war is not over, but the rebirth of Ukraine has actually started.”