Kristel Kajak, Signe Värv

The University of Tartu continues to contribute to the defence of Ukraine and welcomes new volunteers to join the effort

The University of Tartu is the only university and education institution in Estonia that has been making camouflage nets and helmet covers consistently for almost two years. The camouflage nets and helmet covers woven in our study buildings account for as much as 20% of the output of the NGO Aitan Kaitsta (Helping Defend). We are looking for weavers to join again this year. Also, we are calling for volunteers to help knit socks for soldiers for the last months of winter.

The story of NGO Aitan Kaitsta

When Jaana Ratas, who was then working at the Institute of History and Archaeology at the University of Tartu, first heard about the making of camouflage nets from her Latvian acquaintances in March 2022, she probably had no idea that the citizens’ initiative taken up by her and fashion designer Anu Lensment would turn out to be an undertaking of unpredictable length. The war in Ukraine is still being waged.

The Aitan Kaitsta nationwide action of weaving camouflage nets was born on the third week of the war out of the need and desire to help the defenders of Ukraine. The NGO Aitan Kaitsta is now organising the production of defence products for Ukraine and also for the Estonian Defence League, with the help of thousands of people.

Contribution of the University of Tartu and volunteers

Both students and staff of the University of Tartu have helped to weave the camouflage nets, but mostly people from outside the university, including Ukrainian war refugees, are involved. Weaving the camouflage nets is easy, but making a good one takes time, patience and prior knowledge. However, it does not demand too much effort, so beginners can do the weaving just as well.

Making the camouflage nets requires a space where people can get together and keep and store the materials needed to make the nets: fishing nets, textiles, frames, and other things sent to the troops, such as warm socks and sweets. The support of the university – both in terms of access to facilities and understanding colleagues – has been invaluable and will hopefully continue until the end of the war. We are especially grateful to the Institute of History and Archaeology, Institute of Genomics, and Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.

As at 31 December 2023, under the auspices of the NGO Aitan Kaitsta, Estonian volunteer camouflage net weavers have prepared 35,400 m2 of camouflage nets to be sent to the Ukrainian armed forces. This amount could cover Tallinn's Freedom Square nine times. In addition, 2,377 helmet covers have been woven for the soldiers.1

At the University of Tartu, a remarkable 7,110 m2 of camouflage nets and 583 helmet covers have been made within 21 months, accounting for 20% of the total output.

How can I help?

Current weavers are inviting new volunteers, including passionate knitters, to join in the new year. Wool yarn for knitting socks for the soldiers is available on site.

Note! According to clause 8.8 of the collective bargaining agreement of the University of Tartu, the university grants the employee up to three paid days off per year for charity work.

You are welcome to weave the camouflage nets at the University of Tartu

– at Omicum (Riia 23b/2) on workdays at 9:00–17:00 (longer hours possible), contact person Signe Värv (;

– at Philosophicum (Jakobi 2) on Wednesdays at 16:00–20:00, contact persons Kristel Kajak ( and Kristiina Johanson (

There are also collection bins in the lobby of Jakobi 2 and in the atrium of Omicum, where you can bring the following items during opening hours:

– textiles and clothes suitable for weaving: monochrome bed linen, thin cotton clothing, dress shirts and leftover fabrics (preferably in military colours);

– textile paint for cotton, wool and synthetic material;

– candle remnants for making trench candles;

– battery banks for use in electrically heated vests. If you purchase a new battery bank, you can bring us your old one.

1 Aitan Kaitsta Facebook page, post by Ester Kannelmäe of 31 December 2023.

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