October 1, 2023
Since the full-scale invasion of Russia in February 2022, more than 100,000 Ukrainians have volunteered to fight for their country, demonstrating the determination of Ukrainians to preserve their land, heritage and identity. Many volunteer to ensure that their children and grandchildren will not have to fight in the future. At many centres across the vibrant city of Lviv, volunteers are working side-by-side to protect soldiers by weaving camouflage nets, a vital form of defense that keeps soldiers safe by concealing their positions. These centres of activity, initially instigated by locals and Ukrainians forced to relocate to Lviv, are now supported by international volunteers.
Nataliia, an IT professional forced to flee from the violence of Kyiv to Lviv, explains her motivation for volunteering to make camo nets:
"I was searching for something I could do to help. While I have a job, I work, I pay taxes, that's not enough in wartime. I'm not ready to take a weapon — at least not now, and no one knows what will happen next — but I am healthy, I have two legs, two hands, and I must do something for a Ukrainian victory. It's my country, and who else should do it instead of me?"
Volunteers describe the strong sense of being part of a family or community that making camouflage netting brings. 73-year-old Tetiana Tkachuk, a former chemist in the petrochemical industry, says:
"It really functions as a community that brings together both residents of Lviv and those who had to relocate here because they were fleeing violence. It's very rewarding to have these two different groups of people work together on a common purpose."
The process of creating netting is a calm, meditative activity. One volunteer commented:
“I went to camo nets to spend more time with myself, and I listened to a podcast. It was quite meditative. I had spent the past week with lots of people, which I am not used to, so camo-netting was exactly what I needed.”
One of the centres in Lviv is a historic 17th-century building, once the home of royalty and now home to a youth library. Here, volunteers of all ages, backgrounds and professions have worked together to craft over 500 camouflage nets, stretching over 32,000 square feet. The nets are created by tying hundreds of individual cloth strips to netting, hung on a frame constructed from empty bookcases. Locals donate curtains, bed sheets and blankets that are then cut into thin strips of green, black, gray, beige and brown cloth. White or blue cloth is dyed to an earth-toned colour. When a net is finished, together the volunteers roll their work ready for transportation to the soldiers. As they roll the net, everyone sings the Ukrainian national anthem as a form of blessing, an extra protection for their soldiers.
Anna, a British student volunteering in Ukraine, describes her experience:
“Camouflage netting is a popular choice for volunteers in Lviv, and there are venues hosting it all around the city. The place I went to was headed by a group of older Ukrainian women, some of whom had family involved in the military. There were a couple of English-speaking volunteers who talked me through the netting process and provided me with the relevant fabrics. A large net was held taut on a wooden cube-shaped structure, and we essentially tied and weaved fabrics through the net until there were no obvious gaps. Once the net was completed, we removed it from the wooden structure, and the whole thing was able to fit into a large pillowcase. I would recommend this type of volunteering work to people with skills in arts and crafts, and you can sit down while you work on this”.
Here at VolunteeringUkraine, we have six partner organisations seeking volunteers to craft camouflage netting. When you join us in making these nets, you become an essential part of keeping our troops safe and effective. Your efforts ensure they can operate without being easily detected, which is vital for their security and mission success. For more information on times and places where you can volunteer, visit here.