Love in every stitch: Zontian Kiwis knit for Ukraine

The Zonta Club of Waimakariri, New Zealand, presented a veritable feast of color and patterns in pure woolen garments and blankets to former Kiwi soldier Tony Connell, visiting his family in Christchurch from Ukraine. Tony is the country director of the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that clears mines and unexploded munitions worldwide.

The club coordinated the project with the support of the University of the 3rd Age (U3A-Rutherford), a group for active retirement with an educational focus and the craft group at the Russley Village, a retirement complex where the club meets. The club provided the group with pure wool donated by many local people who answered the call on Facebook, Neighbourly and by word of mouth.

What started with a few blankets given to Tony on his last visit home grew exponentially as the club heard of the suffering of so many without electricity during the harsh Ukrainian winter. Like their grandmothers and great-grandmothers before them, today’s knitters called Knit for Victory to support the brave and defiant Ukrainians under their modern-day Churchillian President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

"... People are incredibly compassionate and helpful to those less fortunate - for example, one side of an apartment building will be hit and others in the apartment will take those displaced into their own homes. The hospitality is just amazing, and as a result the degree of pride in the Ukraine has gone through the roof,” Tony said, adding that while, in the past, three-quarters spoke Russian, this figure is now less than one-third.

Tony noted that while the recent winter was considered mild by Ukrainian standards, indiscriminate shelling of civilians in many areas resulted in no water, and frequent power cuts necessitated cooking over open fires. Constant air raid warnings forced residents from what remained of their homes, making keeping warm a continuous battle.

“The items donated today will be distributed and received with great thanks,” said Tony.

The club shipped the items to Poland, which will then be trucked to Ukraine where they are most needed and will warm the Ukrainians' hearts and bodies with love from Kiwis who care.