Greek Grandmother Makes Scarves for Children in Need

13 March 2024

In her small home in the capital of Greece, Athens, 93-year-old Ioanna Matsouka has knit thousands of brightly colored scarves for children in need from Greece to Bosnia to Ukraine. She has no plans to stop just yet.

"Until I die, I will be knitting," Matsouka told Reuters. Her knitting tools called needles made noises through her expert fingers, her nails painted red. "It brings me joy to share them," she said.

Since she took up knitting in the 1990s, Matsouka has easily made over 3,000 scarves, her daughters estimate.

Ioanna Matsouka, 93, knits scarves in her house in Athens, Greece, March 6, 2024. (REUTERS/Karolina Tagaris)
Ioanna Matsouka, 93, knits scarves in her house in Athens, Greece, March 6, 2024. (REUTERS/Karolina Tagaris)

By the door to her home, bags filled with her latest creations await their new owners. A knitted blanket is thrown over a large chair where she spends her days.

In the beginning, the scarves were gifted to friends. As the number of scarves grew, they were donated to children's homes across Greece. Then, through people she knew, they reached children in Bosnia and Ukraine. The latest 70 scarves went to a refugee camp near Athens this winter, via the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

"The fact that we give them away gives her strength," said her daughter Angeliki.

She recounted simple artwork and mail her mother received over the years: "Thank you, be well, keep going. You gave joy to children; you gave joy to people... That's her only reward: a letter, a few words."

Matsouka knits one scarf a day now. Her eyesight suffers and she sometimes has severe facial pain, a condition known as trigeminal neuralgia.

Angeliki says her mother is an example of strength and hope.

Matsouka wakes up every morning, drinks a glass of milk, puts on her jewelry and gets to work. She takes a break for lunch and a short sleep, then knits into the night.

She may have even found the secret to a long life in it, she says. "It's the happiness I get from giving," she said, sitting beside a big blue bag filled with the knitting materials.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Karolina Tagaris reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

knit – v. to make (a piece of clothing) from yarn or thread by using long needles or a special machine

scarf – n. a long piece of cloth that is worn on your shoulders, around your neck, or over your head

joy – n. a feeling of great happiness

blanket – n. a covering made of cloth that is used especially on a bed to keep you warm

reward – n. money or another kind of payment that is given or received for something that has been done or that is offered for something that might be done