Hand Knitted Gifts for North Korean Refugees


Founding a supporting group

About a year ago, we briefly reported on a Ms. Warmheart, who hand-knits warm caps, scarfs and mittens for North Korean orphans. Since then, she has started a support group to encourage others to join this hand-knitting project of hers. The following is about one of the ladies in her group.

A Hungarian Refugee
Ms. A, now in her eighties, moved to the US as a Hungarian refugee. Back in 1940s, Russia invaded Hungary and slaughtered or arrested as many as 30,000 Hungarians who resisted.

There was a revolution in 1956, but before that, Ms. A and her husband, a college professor, had already escaped from Hungary with their small daughter, reaching Austria in mid-winter. At one point, they had to cross an icy and swiftly flowing river in the middle of the night. There was no bridge, nothing but a rope that stretched across the dark and dangerous water. Shivering with both fear and cold, they somehow managed to pull themselves across to the other side, with only that single rope to cling to.

Immigrating to the United States
After reaching safety, they applied for and received permanent visas issued by the American Embassy in Austria. A US army aircraft then took the young family to America, and they settled down in the state of Ohio. Back then, neither Mr. nor Mrs. A spoke English, so her husband, once a university professor, went to work as a janitor. Meanwhile, Mrs. A cared for their daughter during the day and worked as a cleaning lady in a nearby hospital at night after her husband returned home.

In fact, during the first 10 years they were so poor they couldn’t afford furniture or even bedding. They slept on the floor in their coats. The poverty and the homesickness made that decade a very difficult time for them. Gradually, however, Ms. A learned the language at the hospital where she worked. And as a reward for her efforts, she was promoted from cleaning staff to office worker.

Meanwhile, her husband suffered a stroke and had to go to a nursing home. By that time, their daughter was entering university. In order to pay for both the nursing home and their daughter’s tuition fees, Ms. A worked three jobs. Incredibly, she managed to survive the heavy workload.

After all those years of hardship, Ms. A now leads a peaceful life and often enjoys feeding the squirrels from the balcony of her apartment.

Ex-refugee helping NK refugees
Ms. A knows exactly what refugees go through. This strongly motivates her to do something to help refugees who are currently suffering through their own ordeals. Hand-knitting has been a part of her life since she was a girl, and she still knits, but not because she wants to impress others. As she told me, it makes her happy to know that the warm knit goods she creates will help someone who has had to flee their home.

Honestly speaking, until I found out about the background of this elderly lady, I had assumed that she had been born and raised in the US, like most of the volunteers who work at hospitals, libraries and other such facilities. I was deeply impressed by this warm-hearted ex-refugee. She knits for other refugees who are now going through their own difficulties.

As Ms. A mentioned, it is quite logical that someone who used to be a refugee would want to help others now facing the same difficulties, since they better understand the problems and the sadness than people like me who have never had to face such problems.

Although Ms. A has some health problems, she is determined to continue her hand-knitting for as long as she can. Just like us, she is also trying to do whatever she can do to help, as she waits for the day when all North Korean refugees are at last liberated.

By Ms. Hana Mai
an LFNKR Director