Solution 18:49 25 Oct 2022

From socks and sit pads to rebuilding Ukraine: how knitters help soldiers survive cold

Winter is fast approaching, and it's getting colder every day. It means it is freezing in the trenches on the front line. We are talking about the initiative of Ukrainian women, who've been warming our defenders for eight years. Anyone can join. You don't even need to know how to knit.

What is the problem?

Winter is coming. It means it's already cold on the front lines. Our Ukrainian defenders are freezing. Winter uniforms have already started arriving at the front, but the soldiers need spare hats and warm socks, gloves and balaclavas, warming belts, and mats in the dugout.

What is the solution?

Keeping our defenders warm is today's top priority. Thousands of Ukrainians are just now making potbelly ovens, knitting and sewing warm clothes, and buying and taking blankets and sleeping bags to the front lines. Volunteer centers take care of Ukrainian soldiers in almost every settlement of Ukraine. But you can gather together and hand over some warmth directly from hand to hand and through social media. 

Knitted Things For Soldiers has existed on Facebook for eight years. It all started with two sisters' desire to help somehow the anti-terrorist operation soldiers and volunteer fighters—the ones who were the first to defend our statehood. And today, more than 1,200 community members knit and send hats, balaclavas, socks, gloves, and other warm things to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They will teach you how to knit and help you transfer ready-made items to the front.

Rubryka talked to the founder of the project, a journalist, volunteer, and head of the board of the Ukraine—Reboot Charity Fund, Larysa Stepanushko, to find out how it works.

How does it work?

Larysa Stepanushko's struggle against the russian invaders began on the Maidan. During the Revolution of Dignity, she was one of the coordinators of the psychological help center. When the police beat the students, the volunteer family didn't sit idle. Even Larysa's 6-year-old daughter asked her dad to help her make a sword. The child was going to go to the Maidan to protect people.

In August 2014, when information began to arrive from volunteer fighters from Donbas that they were freezing, Larysa, who knew how to knit, organized the Facebook community, Knitted Things For Soldiers.

Anger that motivates

в'язані речі для ЗСУ

Things knitted with hands did not require significant expenses. Larysa knitted the first batch of socks and hats together with her sister. And then, the group began to increase, and another group knitting mittens (warm gloves with separate thumbs and forefingers) joined it. After half a year, the work of the group, which united artists not only from Ukraine but also from Georgia, the Baltic countries, Italy, and the USA, was coordinated by several people.

They knitted everything—warm socks, balaclavas, buffs, gloves, belts, knee pads, and elbow pads for soldiers at ground zero. The nuances and features of products for the front were mastered as the business progressed—the volunteers closely contacted the defenders regarding their needs, discussed all the details of the products, and adjusted them if necessary.

в'язані речі для ЗСУ

Then they began to sew underwear, which was in great demand. There was a lot of work— the volunteers helped Ukraine's Armed Forces, National Guard, and volunteer fighters. 

"With every step of the russian invaders on the Ukrainian land, my anger boiled up more and more," Larysa Stepanushko recalls. "Both then and now, it creates a desire to help our defenders even more."

Since 2017, the state began to provide the military with everything necessary, much better. So the need for knitted things and underwear decreased. But the group never stopped its work. In addition to knitting, group members baked goodies for defenders, prepared energy mixtures and stews, and bought medicine, cars, and much more. They made things for sale at charity fairs: sewed shopping bags, cosmetic bags, and amulets.

From socks to restoring Ukraine 

After russia's full-scale invasion started on February 24, Knitted Things For Soldiers intensified their work. At first, the volunteers didn't work so much as a knitting group. Everyone at the place where they had to evacuate knitted warm clothes again, wove camouflage nets and bases for them, sewed underpants, and continuously collected, packed, and handed something to the front. 

In recent months, group members have involved many new people in various regions to volunteer.

Currently, the Knitted Things For Soldiers community is developing the following directions: 

  • knitting warm things for the front (there is a need for all the things mentioned above, especially socks);
  • weaving camouflage nets (there are three locations: Irpin, Kyiv, and the town of Nova Ushytsia in the Khmelnytskyi Region);
  • sewing tactical underwear for the front and the hospital (with Velcro).

Adults and schoolchildren join the community's activities offline: group members organize charity fairs to raise funds and purchase tactical equipment; schools hold meetings with defenders and master classes on making charms and involve children and their parents in collecting necessary things for the front.

в'язані речі для ЗСУ

Knitters live not only for the present. Realizing there would be a lot of work after the victory of Ukraine, Larysa Stepanushko, together with like-minded people, founded the Charity Fund Ukraine—Reboot. The founders of the fund, Larysa Stepanushko and Anna Pavlenko, explain that the name contains the main goal: to make every effort to revive Ukraine and the nation. Among the tasks set by the fund is the implementation of projects from reintegrating veterans and launching new mini-industries. All these projects should contribute to the revival of society and become the "fishing rod" that will help Ukrainians recover and restore the country's health.

Today, the Facebook group Knitted Things For Soldiers has more than 1,200 members. Newbies are constantly joining the group; some knit professionally, and others are learning to join warming warriors. Therefore, experienced community members always publish posts sharing life hacks.

Products for soldiers are special

в'язані речі для ЗСУ

Home-knitted socks, which are so lovely to wear at home and watch TV, are one thing. The socks that will go to warm the soldier on the front line are another. Everything is essential: yarn composition, color range, thickness, and other product parameters. 

  • For example, socks worn in army boots should be thinner than for sleeping, with a high leg and reinforced heel and toe. Learn more about the requirements for socks here.
  • For gloves (gloves, mittens), the composition and color of threads are essential: from 50% wool and 50% acrylic or other yarn, which adds strength, density, and volume to the product. Colors: dark only. Look at the instructions on how to knit gloves. 
  • Threads for headgear (balaclavas, hats) are best with 75-80% wool and 25-20% acrylic: colors: black, dark brown, dark green (swamp), khaki, and dark gray. Finished products cannot be dyed or washed with softeners; after these manipulations, they are not suitable for wearing. Look at templates for a balaclava.
  • Manufacturing tactical underpants has nuances: for example, they must be shorter than ordinary underwear. Otherwise, they will interfere with mobility. Patterns can be found in the files tab.

в'язані речі для ЗСУ

Literally, from everything people give away to Knitted Things For Soldiers, the group tries to make something useful. So, they began to weave sit pads from pieces of knitwear and fleece. 

"At first, the boys didn't understand what it was and why they needed it. And recently, the gunners told a funny story: the machine gunners liked the sit pads we gave them the day before so much that they had to give them as a gift, and they asked us for a new batch," Larysa Stepanushko shares.

How to hand over your "knitting" to the front? 

Write to the coordinators! From the beginning of its existence, the community makes part of the shipments from Kyiv: the group announces collection with a list of needs and deadlines. Ready-made things are loaded into cars by volunteers or soldiers. The volunteers also send products through the Nova Poshta delivery service. Most of the shipments are made by the craftsmen themselves (the address will be provided in the group) because it is faster and cheaper. 

In addition, the community has established friendly relations with volunteers from many regions; those who want to donate ready-made items are directed to them.

Since 2014, more than 8,000 units of knitwear and more than 15,000 pairs of underwear have been sent to the front line.

Every helping hand is important!

Mrs. Larysa recalls some situations when people handed over 2-3 pairs of socks or hats and apologized for not having enough:

"Then I say: imagine three defenders, whom you dressed in hats and socks. They are warm and motivated by your help and do their job well. Or you sewed ten pairs of underpants. You can imagine what a joy and pleasure it is to wear clean clothes for boys who do not have the opportunity to wash properly and clean things."

According to Larysa Stepanushko, it is unthinkable and not fair to underestimate the contribution of some and exaggerate the assistance of other volunteers, to measure the contribution of one or another person in the collected amounts or things. Should you compare the purchase of a drone, for example, dozens of people spend money on, with the sewing of hundreds of pairs of underwear by one person who spent many hours and days on it instead of relaxing or spending time with his family?

Once the group was sent yarn from the USA, the box traveled for three months. The volunteers were amazed at how much a person wanted to help, that he found a way to deliver the yarn across the ocean to Ukraine.

Even more helpful solutions!

How to become part of the project?

в'язані речі для ЗСУ

— Join the circle of craftswomen and knit together warm things for our defenders. Warm clothes are knitted according to specific orders from fighters from the front line, and the group's coordinators organize the transfers.

— Hand over materials:

  • knitting yarn (wool, semi-wool, acrylic, preferably dark colors);
  • fabrics for underwear (only natural ones, like calico, coarse calico, and satin). The craftswomen need all this from the group in large quantities!

— Knit sit pads. Such warm rugs are crocheted in a circle from knitwear, jeans, and fleece strips. The diameter of the seat is 40 cm. It is recommended to make ties.

Send ready-made things for fighters: men's fleeces, sweaters (dark colors), T-shirts with short and long sleeves, socks (thin, factory-made), chemical heaters, cigarettes, wet wipes, goodies (chocolate, nuts, honey, dried apricots, candied fruits, lemons, etc.).

Participate in fundraising for the needs of the Ukrainian armed Forces, which Ukraine—Reboot organizes. For example, they are currently assembling a Ukrainian-made drone for a military unit participating in the liberation of the northern regions from the russian occupiers.

You can write to the Knitted Things For Soldiers group coordinators for all questions at the link

This article was made possible thanks to the support of IREX. The content is the sole responsibility of the Rubryka online publication and does not necessarily reflect the views of IREX or the US State Department.



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