Army of British knitters bring joy to Ukrainians during two years of war

An army of knitters across the UK have been diligently knitting hats, blankets and booties for babies in Ukrainian hospitals for almost two years, bringing joy to their families in the war-torn country.

At least 20 knitting groups gather in town halls and libraries on a regular basis to knit gifts that get delivered to new mothers often giving birth in dire circumstances.

Sue Stafford, a retired nurse, has been helping gather items like clothes, food and medicines for Ukrainians since the beginning of the war, but recently decided to expand her activities into organising a knitting group in Broughton, Chester.

Ms Stafford told the PA news agency: “I put on the village website that it was my idea to start knitting blankets for Ukraine but, ‘I’m rather a slow knitter, could anybody help?’

Residents of Broughton, Chester, have started knitting items for Ukrainians (Sue Stafford/PA)

Since the group was established, Broughton residents have knitted more than 20 blankets, as well as toys and yellow and blue buntings “to cheer up the places where they go underground for shelter”.

The knitting group not only provides useful gifts to people in Ukraine but gives older people in the local community a boost, Ms Stafford said.

“We have a lot of ladies who have, unfortunately, lost their husbands and have been quite lonely and this has brought them out,” she said.

Ukrainian mothers are given shoe boxes filled with knitted gifts (New Forest for Ukraine/PA)

The group received a request from organisers around Christmas to knit pairs of baby socks, with one to be given to the child and the other to be given to the father fighting on the front line “as a memento”.

The retiree said: “We just wanted to help – when I saw (the Russian invasion) on the news I was devastated and I just really wanted to help in some way.”

The knitting groups have been putting together “baby boxes”, which are shoeboxes filled with knitted items like dolls and blankets as well as toiletries for the new mums.

British aid worker Wendy Warrington distributes knitted gifts and other items to hospitals in Ukraine (Wendy Warrington/PA)

She said: “There’s a little card inside that’s written in Ukrainian to say that people are thinking about them, and to congratulate them on the birth of the baby.”

The new mums are often encouraged to pose for a photo with the thank you card and baby boxes, which are shown to the knitters and crafters back in the UK to encourage and inspire them.

Ms Warrington explained that the new mums find encouragement and strength from the knitted gifts as they are sometimes giving birth under extreme circumstances.

“Where these women are giving birth, you’ve got sandbags against the window, you can have the air raid sirens going off,” she said.

A new mother receives crafted items in Ukraine (Wendy Warrington/PA)

“Some people do feel that they’ve obviously been forgotten about and abandoned, so, when it’s a time of great joy, you’ve just had a baby and you’re in a war zone, to have something presented to you like that actually means everything.”

Theresa Magner, 62, leads the volunteer group New Forest for Ukraine on its knitting campaigns and accepts and sorts the knitted items to send them to Ukraine.

Ms Magner, a retired primary school teacher based in Thorney Hill in the New Forest in Hampshire, told PA: “The messages that come in with the knitting are just absolutely heart-warming.

“I don’t think we can let our support dwindle at all.

“We’ve just got to show that we stand with them and that the support we have will continue for as long as they need it and beyond because whatever happens, they’re still going to need us.”

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