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North Vancouver senior knits hundreds of hats for Ukrainian children

The 84-year-old was up every morning at 3 a.m. for seven months to do her part offering warmth to children in the war.
North Vancouver resident Margaret Davies knitted 200 toques for children in Ukraine. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

For the first six years of her life, Margaret Davies was up and down the stairs between her parents’ café and the bomb shelter in the basement.

Davies was born in England at the start of the Second World War. When peace came in 1945, there was very little to go around, but her parents led by example, generously sharing bits of butter, sugar and other supplies with neighbours who had even less.

“It was rations and learning to be extremely frugal. But we got apples from Canada and I never forgot the gifts we got from Canada,” she said.

Now 84, Davies is returning the favour, in a way.

In her adult life, Davies moved to the United States and Canada where she was the publisher of magazines and owner of businesses in printing, design and real estate. In 2004, she suffered catastrophic injuries in a horrific logging truck accident. The driver was headed west on the Upper Levels Highway when the trailer lost its load, sending raw logs into the oncoming lanes. Two people were killed and six were injured.

After about two years, Davies regained her ability to knit, which she turned to as a form of therapy.

“Here I was after the crash, just a mess,” she said. “And the knitting did it.”

Watching coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Davies felt compelled to help by using her knitting skills to at least offer some comfort from the cold in the now severely bombed-out country.

“It just broke my heart to see the children,” she said. “It’s always the children of the war that get it the worst, that suffer the most.”

A contact of Davies with North Shore Community Resources got her in touch with a non-profit called UHelp Ukraine Society, who were preparing to send a shipping container full of supplies badly needed by civilians.

“I said, ‘Well put me down for, hopefully, 200 touques,’” she said. “They were delighted.”

Among the lingering impacts of the crash are vision problems that cause her to see double, making it very difficult to read knitting patterns, so Davies memorized a relatively simple design. Over the next seven months, Davies got into a routine that would make others blanch, starting her work every morning at 3 a.m.

“I would have my cup of Joe and then I would just start my knitting,” she said with a laugh. “I just kept knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting ‘til I became like a machine.… I think the good lord must have been watching over me, because I was surprised at myself.”

By late November, Davies had finished her 200th toque. She packed them into boxes with messages she’d written on the outside – “Love you,” “Bless you” and “You’re in my prayers.”

Asked how others might help, Davies answers pointedly.

“I’d like Russia to bloody well stop,” she said. “How dare they? How dare they? How dare they do this to a little country?”

Davies used her skills to send warmth. It falls to the United States and other Western countries to continue sending armour and munitions that might spare Ukrainians from a fate worse than the war today, she said.

“It’s going to be a terrible day in hell if the Russians take over Ukraine,” she said.

In late January, Davies received an update from the UHelp Ukraine Society and photos of school children in Kherson wearing the hats she made in North Vancouver. It left her no doubt the long hours in her knitting chair were well worth it.

“I felt so good. Those little ones, bless their hearts, they’re going through the damn war,” she said. “I wanted them to know there are people in the world that really do care. It means a lot to those children. I know. I know how I felt in the war in England.”