What is the problem?
Clothing for defenders is an expendable item. Service members need not only tactical things but also underwear, socks, gloves, and hats. These small things warm those who are defending Ukraine at the front. They are necessary to keep the fingers warm to pull the trigger in time, to keep the feet from freezing during combat tasks in the steppe, and to protect ears from the wind.
What is the solution?
Sew or knit and send the finished product to Ukrainian service members. Yuliia Savostina, the Made in Ukraine project's leader, founded it with like-minded people. The idea to create a movement of people who make warm things for defenders was offered by her friends from "Dobrobat," a volunteer movement that gathers volunteers and, with the support of partners, urgently rebuilds and restores buildings and infrastructure destroyed by the russian invaders.
"At the beginning of autumn, I was told: 'Let's unite people who can knit.' Tactical clothing is important, but that's not the only thing the defenders need," says Savostina.
Yuliia and her friends founded "Zigrii," where thousands of artisans united to knit socks, hats, balaclavas, gloves, and other things.
How does it work?
For potential artisans, they recorded a video message with an invitation to join "Zigrii," made a landing page with basic information and the opportunity to leave a donation there, and created questionnaires that the volunteers could fill out.
The most challenging part of starting the project was finding yarn for each knitter because not everyone could buy it independently.
"A person who receives a salary can buy a couple of skeins of yarn for 100-200 hryvnias, but what if it's an older woman from the Sumy region? Or women would come to us and say: 'The clothes I'm wearing are the only thing I have because I left Kharkiv. Can I have some yarn? I will knit.' Then we gave out threads and knitting needles," says Savostina.
Many people who joined "Zigrii" needed yarn. But the enemy bombed one of the biggest Ukrainian markets, where the yarn could be bought, Kharkiv's Barabashov market, and another big market, Odesa's "7th kilometer," was not fully operational. And Ukraine did not have the same number of threads as before the start of the full-scale war.
"We called the yarn manufacturer and placed a large order which was paid with donations. Then people started texting: 'My mother used to knit, and I have a suitcase of leftover yarn. Can I send it to you?'. I also urged everyone who could have ever knitted before to search for leftover skeins," shares Savostina.
"Zigrii" defined precise requirements for products. Hats and balaclavas must be knitted from yarn containing natural thread and be fireproof not to harm the fighters.
The team had several orders for black hats and balaclavas, but mostly, commanders asked not to send black. No matter how stylish it looks, you can't see blood on black," says the leader of "Zigrii."
Hats and balaclavas should be in pixel colors as close as possible to natural shades. In autumn, the team bought everything that could meet this requirement from the manufacturer. But the socks were knitted from all possible colors, especially since the defenders like the bright ones.
"There were artisans who have been knitting since 2014 and shared clear and proven product patterns. All the created things were tested on the front line — they were sent to defenders who tried them and said whether they were ok. The most important thing is that there should be a good density of knitting," says the project leader.
How many people were involved, and how many things were created?
"Zigrii" team has 4-5 thousand people involved, with initiative centers even in Germany and Ireland, says Yulia Savostina.
"I was pleasantly surprised by many people ready to do anything to help the defenders. Sometimes I was told, 'I can't knit, but I can tink."
People want to make even a small contribution to Ukraine's future victory, to make it a little easier for those fighting so that we can drink coffee in peace. This is probably the most touching moment for me," says Savostina.
Not only women work with yarn, but also men, although not many of them. Knitting is good for calming during nervous breakdowns. More than 20,000 products have already been created during the project's existence.
How does "Zigrii" work?
Several people are in the core team of "Zigrii": Yuliia Savostina is the project leader who controls all processes. The general manager monitors applications. One person is in charge of logistics, forming boxes, and rewinding yarn. Some communicate with artisans — offline and online. Also, the project employs a communicator and a volunteer driver.
The members of the "Zigrii" team have established the work's logistics in a few months. Knitters, having a pattern and yarn, create products, and then, if they are Ukraine-based, send them to the Made in Ukraine office. There, a part of the premises was arranged for humanitarian purposes. If the artisan works abroad, a local activist from "Zigrii" gives them yarn, and the created items get delivered to Ukraine.
"Everyone has some acquaintance who transports the belongings of displaced persons or a humanitarian aid on a bus. Such drivers have long become good friends of volunteers. Thanks to them, everything is transported to Chernivtsi, Ternopil, or Ivano-Frankivsk. Then it all arrives in Kyiv, where we sort it because military personnel from different units need different amounts of certain things," says Savostina.
The team makes sure to include a bar of chocolate, coffee, and notes from children in the package. Then it goes to the front either by car or by mail.
"Now, we are all volunteers, so we usually know about the needs of particular defenders," says the volunteer.
"Zigrii" will work until March 20 in the active phase. Then they will continue to knit and collect things, but they will give them to the defenders already in the fall.
"Spring has begun, but winter will last in Ukraine until the end of March. We understand it may still snow, and the nights will be cold until Easter. We have a warehouse where we will stockpile created things throughout the spring and summer. Because we understand that the new winter will come very quickly," says Savostina.
Defenders are always happy to receive packages from "Zigrii." The defenders thank the volunteers, write touching messages, and send photos.
The most forthright ones say to the volunteers, laughing: "Thank you very much, but don't relax, please. Everything you send to the front is just expandables." Therefore, the "Zigrii" team members will work as long as there is a need for warm things.
How to help the project?
If you want to knit, you can complete a questionnaire on the website and become one of the artisans. You will be added to the chat, where everything will be explained.
You can also help by sending threads to volunteers after joining the project's chat or bringing them to the "Ukraine without garbage" sorting station.
You can also donate money on the website.
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