Despite having a family history rooted in southwestern Russia with ancestors on my father’s side (wealthy landowners with ties to the aristocracy up until the 1917 Revolution) and strong connections in the Voronezh and Samara oblasts, I have come out in support of Ukraine during the ongoing conflict. I have a number of close friendships with people in the capital city of Kyiv and dotted throughout Crimea. While I have long collected the stamps of both Russia and Ukraine, only the latter has received additions to my personal albums since the end of February this year.
I have received a fair amount of correspondence from the country since the invasion, most arriving in a fairly timely manner. This postcard, however, took a bit of a detour. It was mailed from Lviv (Львів), the largest city in western Ukraine, on April 18, 2022, and only arrived on December 9 — a journey of 235 days. The inverted handstamp in blue reveals the reason: MISSENT TO MALAYSIA. I have heard of mail bound for Thailand having been mistakenly sent to Taiwan but never Malaysia. I suppose a clerk somewhere through the handwritten Ukrainian in Cyrillic for “Thailand” (Таїланд) resembled the word “Malaysia”. A stretch, I know, but plausible.
The card bears a couple of Municipal Arms definitives on the left (Bolhrad – Scott #1301 issued July 16, 2021, and Burshtyn – Scott #1246 issued June 3, 2020) but the main stamp is one that led a resurgence in Ukrainian philately when it was issued on April 12 (Scott #1338). This is the “F” denomination (there was also a “W”) and features a Russian soldier “giving the finger” to the Russian cruiser Moskva (Москва). The issue gained a great deal of interest as well as titles (officially, it started off as “Ukrainian Defiance In Face of Russian Aggression”) and the design was chosen from entries submitted in a competition. Speculators immediately drove the price of the stamp and first day covers to insane levels and hackers crippled the webstore of Ukrposhta (Укрпошта) when online sales commenced.
Moskva, as the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, helped lead the naval assault during the Russian invasion of Ukraine from February until April 2022. She was the most powerful surface vessel in the Black Sea region at the time, and Ukraine’s only threat against it were a limited number of Neptune missiles.
In February 2022, the cruiser left Sevastopol to participate in the attack on Ukraine. On February 24, the first day of the invasion, Ukrainian State Border Guards announced at about 18:00 local time that Snake Island had come under attack by the Moskva and patrol ship Vasily Bykov who were attempting to seize it as part of the battle for control of the Black Sea. When the Russian warship identified itself and ordered the Ukrainian soldiers stationed on the island to surrender, a border guard later identified as Roman Hrybov replied, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.” (Русский военный корабль, иди на хуй) An audio clip of the exchange was first shared by Ukrainian government official Anton Herashchenko, then widely publicized by Ukrayinska Pravda, and later verified as authentic by Ukrainian government sources.
A Ukrainian border guard live-streamed the moment that the Russian warship opened fire. Later in the evening, the State Border Guard Service said that communication with the island had been lost. At 22:00 (01:00 Moscow Time, UTC+2), service officials announced that Russian forces had captured the island following a naval and air bombardment that destroyed all infrastructure on the island. After the bombardment, a detachment of Russian soldiers landed and took control of Snake Island.
In the late hours of April 13, 2022, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych reported Moskva was on fire and Odesa governor Maksym Marchenko said their forces hit Moskva with two R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles. A radar image showed the ship was about 80 nautical miles (150 km) south of Odesa around 7 p.m. local time (GMT+3), shortly after the damage occurred. Two reports indicated the ship sank before 3 a.m. on April 14. The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed a fire caused a munitions explosion, and the ship sank in stormy seas while being towed to port. Moskva is the largest warship to be sunk in combat since the ARA General Belgrano in the 1982 Falklands War, and the largest Russian warship to be sunk since World War II.
According to the Lithuanian defence minister, there were 485 crew members aboard, including 66 officers. He also said that a Turkish ship responded to a distress call and saved 54 crew members at 2 a.m. local time. Russia stated one sailor from the Moskva was killed and 27 were missing, while 396 crew members were rescued. In November 2022, after families demanded information, a Russian court in Crimea acknowledged the deaths of a further 17 sailors, mostly conscripts. A Russian recruitment office mistakenly sent conscription papers to a missing Moskva sailor in October 2022. Reuters reported that in the morning of April 15, Russia launched an apparent retaliatory missile strike against the missile factory Luch Design Bureau in Kyiv, where the Neptune missiles allegedly used in the attack were designed and manufactured. Ukraine has officially declared the wreck of the ship to be an underwater cultural heritage site.
The sinking of Moskva came two days after Ukrposhta released one million of the stamps, the “F” denomination on the postcard had a face value of ₴23.00 on the date of issue. It, and the companion “W” stamp, was printed during nighttime hours in blackout conditions at the Integrated Printing Plant Ukraina For Securities using offset lithography in sheets of six stamps, perforated 13 and each measuring 40.75 x 26 mm. The Ukrposhta competition based on the phrase was launched on March 1 with First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova announcing on March 12 that artist Borys Grokh’s work had won the popular vote for his design. He had lived in Yevpatoria in the Crimea all his life and was studying to be an artist but was forced to move to Kyiv and later to Lviv due to the 2014 Russian occupation of Crimea.
The sinking boosted sales of the stamp in Ukraine and some people in Ukraine queued for more than two hours to get the stamp. Roman Hrybov and the head of the Ukrainian Post Office, Igor Smelyansky, signed first day covers at the Kyiv Main Post Office. One million copies (500,000 of each denomination) were printed, of which 700,000 were sold across Ukraine by April 20. 200,000 were reserved for sale in areas under Russian occupation including Crimea, and 100,000 were reserved for sale online starting on April 20. On April 21, the Ukrposhta website went offline. Smelyansky reported on Facebook that the site had been hit with a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. Although a perpetrator was not named, various outlets speculated that Russia’s GRU was likely responsible for the cyberattack, and that it had done so in retaliation for the sale of the stamps.
The sinking of Moskva likely boosted the morale of many Ukrainians and negatively affected morale of the invading Russian forces. Oleksiy Neizhpapa, the commander of Ukrainian naval forces, was promoted as a reward for the sinking of the cruiser.
Lviv became the Ukraine’s de facto western capital in February 2022 as some embassies, government agencies, and media organizations were relocated from Kyiv due to a direct military threat to the capital. Lviv also became a safe haven for the Ukrainians fleeing other parts of the country affected by the invasion, their number exceeding 200,000 as of March 18. Many used the city as a stopping point on their way to Poland. Lviv and the larger region around it also served as crucial arms and humanitarian supply route. Bracing for Russian attacks, local government and citizens, helped by the Polish and Croatian advisers, worked to protect the city’s cultural heritage by erecting makeshift barriers around historical monuments, wrapping statues, and safeguarding art treasures.
In the course of the war, the area in and around Lviv was struck by Russian missile attacks, hitting the Yavoriv military training base on March 13, the Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant near the Lviv Danylo Halytskyi International Airport on March 18 and a fuel depot and other facilities within the city limits on March 26.
According to Mayor Andriy Sadoviy, on April 18 (the date this postcard was mailed), the city was hit by five missile strikes. Seven civilians were killed and 11 were wounded. Regional governor Maksym Kozystkiy said that the targets were military factories and a tire shop. A hotel housing evacuees was hit, damaging windows. On April, TASS quoted the Russian Ministry of Defense that confirmed 315 targets were struck by Russian missiles overnight. The statement claimed that all targets were of a military nature.
Lviv was targeted during the October 10 missile strikes on Ukraine, resulting in a city-wide blackout. On October 11, 2022, Mayor Sadoviy reported that the city was hit by a missile strike, resulting in a power outage and water supply shortage.
The postcard itself is one of a series created for Postcrossing and sold by the publishing house of Farion, operating in Lviv since 1995. The cut apple is their logo, “our happy, branded letter “F”, from which the word “fortune” begins. Our mission is to make the holiday brighter in the modern “digitalized” world! After all, it is much more pleasant, on the occasion of any event, to get a “live”, sophisticated design, printed or decorated with handmade elements, a greeting card, than a standard digital picture found on the “network” sent using the messenger.”
The “My Ukraine” cards use the work of the talented artist Kateryna Biletina. In her designs, Biletina
“lovingly writes out the details of folk clothes from different regions of Ukraine, successfully combining everything with expressive national types. Let these wonderful female portraits tell about the beauty of Ukrainian women to the whole world!“
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