10 Postage Stamps That Help to Better Understand the War in Ukraine
Just a few decades ago, around 200 million people worldwide engaged in philately, the hobby of stamp collecting. However, with the advent of emails, this pastime became exceedingly unpopular, if not marginal. That is, until Putin's Russia criminally invaded Ukraine – a war that changed many things in the world, unexpectedly rekindling the passion for stamp collecting among millions.
Austria is generally considered the leader in postal printing technology in Europe – which is understandable, as they produce stamps on fabric, leather, with embroidery, and even with scents. These are complex and costly technologies, but they manage to attract new enthusiasts to philately (which is no small feat). Nevertheless, it seems a new serious player has entered the field. Today, almost every new stamp from Ukrposhta is a small work of art, as well as a dose of Ukrainian sarcasm and a celebration of their indomitable spirit. For foreigners, Ukrainian military stamps provide a glimpse into what this nation is fighting for, why it deserves support, and why it will inevitably triumph.
Russian Warship, Go…! (Русскій воєнний корабль, іді на **й!)
This legendary stamp was awarded the "World Post & Parcel Awards" as the best in the world for 2022. It features a Ukrainian marine infantryman showing his rear to a Russian cruiser. Crimean artist Boris Groh paid homage to the resilience of the defenders of Snake Island. On the first day of the war, the captain of the cruiser "Moskva" suggested the local garrison on the island surrender, under threat of annihilating all life there. The reply: "Russian warship, f**k you…!" This colorful and unapologetic retort from a Ukrainian border guard was recognized globally as a fitting response to Russia's criminal aggression. The phrase became iconic and, prophetically, a few weeks later, Ukrainian Armed Forces sent the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet to the depths, marking the first sinking of a ship of such rank and size since the Falklands War in 1982.
PTN GFY! (ПТН ПНХ!)
Leading up to the first anniversary of the war, Ukrposhta released a stamp featuring graffiti by Banksy and the well-known phrase that is now written on nearly every other Ukrainian fence: "ПТН ПНХ!" (an abbreviation for "Путін пішов на х**!", meaning "Putin, go f**k yourself!"). It is known that the Russian dictator once practiced judo, so Banksy depicted on the wall of a ruined building in Borodyanka (a city near Kyiv) a young but strong boy symbolizing Ukraine, effortlessly throwing Putin to the ground. This isn't just an artist's fantasy; it's a depiction of what actually happened. After threats to capture Kyiv in three days, Russian occupiers barely held out on its outskirts for just over a month, before retreating from the entire northern part of Ukraine. They even amused the world by labeling their retreat as a "gesture of goodwill."
Good Evening, We are from Ukraine! (Доброго вечора, ми з України!)
Russia's initial blitzkrieg in the war was so humiliating, overconfident, and unplanned that Russian soldiers often got lost in the towns and villages they invaded. When facing Ukrainian defenders, they often abandoned their equipment and fled. The stamp "Good Evening, We are from Ukraine!" captures a real incident in Mykolaiv Oblast, where a tractor driver hitched a deserted tank abandoned by the occupiers and pulled it over to the Ukrainian side. The resourcefulness and bravery of ordinary Ukrainians assisting the army against a colossal enemy is one reason why the civilized world stands behind Ukraine. Igor Smiliansky, the head of Ukrposhta, explains the popularity of Ukrainian stamps:
"During the war, postage stamps became more than just a means of correspondence – they became Ukraine's weapon on the international stage. While Russia spends billions on propaganda against Ukraine, we utilize our creativity and all available means to portray the image of Ukraine and Ukrainians."
Dog Patron (Пес Патрон)
Due to Russia's aggression, Ukraine became the most mine-contaminated country in the world. Living in a minefield is no pleasure, so Ukrainians deeply appreciate the hard work of sappers who diligently clear away the leftover mines from the occupiers. Patron, a Jack Russell terrier, assists in this endeavor. He not only detects mines but also attends meetings with foreign diplomats and visits hospitals to support children injured due to Russian shelling on Ukrainian territory. It was simply impossible not to dedicate a stamp to this beloved national mascot.
Crimean Bridge in Trouble (Кримський міст на біс!)
In the autumn of 2022, an explosion occurred on the illegally constructed Crimean Bridge, which currently connects the occupied Ukrainian peninsula with mainland Russia. This event instilled hope in Ukrainians that one day, there will be nothing left of that bridge at all. Ukrposhta released a stamp named "Crimean Bridge in Trouble!". It contains not only a clear allusion to the movie "Titanic," but also many other intriguing details. For instance, the cigarette butt in the woman's hand hints at the occupiers' habit of smoking in inappropriate places (according to Russian propaganda, explaining their frequent explosions at military sites). It's also noticeable that a car is flying off the bridge into the abyss, and household treasures, like a washing machine, are falling from it. This symbolizes the tendency of Russian marauders to loot in the captured Ukrainian towns and villages. Additionally, a Bayraktar drone "accidentally" flies over the bridge, and the remains of a Russian tank can be seen below.
Warriors of Light. Warriors of Good (Воїни світла. Воїни добра)
Last winter, Putin decided that if he couldn't defeat the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the battlefield, he would wage war against civilians. Thus began the battle of Russian rockets (with the support of Iranian drones) against Ukrainian energy workers, road workers, communicators, gas workers, and water suppliers. Russia's winter terror aimed to destroy Ukraine's civilian infrastructure, subjecting tens of millions of ordinary people who refused to be part of the so-called "russian world" to darkness, cold, and lack of hot water. Ukrainians indeed faced hardships during winter, but local municipal workers swiftly carried out all necessary repairs, avoiding prolonged blackouts. What's more, Ukrainians learned to keep warm using candles, keep small businesses running with autonomous generators, and save energy by switching from traditional bulbs to LED lights. As President Zelensky said, addressing the Russians during the darkest time of winter: "Without light or without you? Without you..."
Kherson is Ukraine (Херсон - це Україна)
Due to its proximity to the previously occupied Crimea, Kherson became the only regional center in Ukraine captured by the Russians during the war. However, the Russians' plans for the city, known for its tastiest watermelons and tomato paste, were met with an unpleasant surprise. Instead of the pro-Russian population they hoped for, thousands of civilians flooded the streets of Kherson, fearlessly driving armed-to-the-teeth Russians away with peaceful protests (accompanied by placards and curses). When the Ukrainian Armed Forces reclaimed the city, Putin decided to punish Kherson residents for their refusal to submit. Almost a year has passed since Kherson's liberation, yet locals still endure hostile flyovers. If you look closely at the watermelon slice on the stamp, you can see that the red flesh represents the city in flames, and the black seeds symbolize the bombs falling upon it.
Weapon of Victory (Зброя перемоги)
An effective defense against the onslaught of the "second world army" requires effective weaponry. Ukrainians pay tribute to both domestic and foreign military equipment that helped keep the territory of Ukraine free of any occupant who hasn't regretted their presence. At the end of 2022, the first stamp was released dedicated to the "Weapon of Victory" series.
The collection includes "Vilkha" (Ukrainian multiple launch rocket system), "Neptune" (Ukrainian anti-ship missile system), "Stugna-P" (Ukrainian portable anti-tank missile system), as well as "Bayraktar" (Turkish drone), "Javelin" (American anti-tank guided missile system), and "HIMARS" (American rocket artillery system). Given that the war in Ukraine has become a testing ground for numerous state-of-the-art weaponry from partner countries, the "Weapon of Victory" series is likely to include many more relevant stamps.
Ukrainian Dream (Українська Мрія)
The AN-225 "Mriya," developed by Ukraine's Antonov Design Bureau, was the largest and most powerful aircraft in the world. However, on the fourth day of the war, Russian forces destroyed it during the battle for Gostomel Airport near Kyiv. Unfortunately, the record-breaking aircraft, known for aiding numerous countries worldwide during the pandemic by swiftly transporting critical medical supplies, was a one-of-a-kind creation. The stamp "Ukrainian Dream" portrays a child's drawing where a girl is flying on a firebird, her arms outstretched like wings, while her companion – the "Mriya" aircraft – soars beside her in the sky. Ukrainians plan to build a new AN-225, but that will only be possible after the war's conclusion. For now, "Mriya" continues to travel the world – as depicted on the stamp.
Destroyers of Evil (Винищувачі зла)
While the AN-225 is the aircraft that Ukrainians dream of rebuilding once they achieve victory, the F-16 is the aircraft they dream of receiving from their Western partners to accelerate that victory to the fullest. The American fighter jet has the potential to drastically shift the balance of power in Ukraine's favor, but the process of its transfer to Kyiv is inexplicably stalled. Therefore, Ukrposhta decided to create a kind of "visualization board" and released a stamp this August that aims to bring the realization of the Ukrainian Armed Forces' primary desire closer. In the illustration, the artist metaphorically depicts the Ukrainian army erasing the Kremlin (symbol of the Russian empire of evil), vigorously rubbing it back and forth with a sponge perforated with numerous F-16s. Well, let's see if, as coaches promise in their training sessions, well-visualized dreams do indeed come true.