As dawn broke over Ukraine on February 24 this year, the Russian Federation launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine. In my daily work, I have been working with software development teams in Ukraine for almost 15 years, mainly in Kharkiv, just 30 miles (less than 50 km) from the Russian border. In the first hours of the invasion, I messaged an old group chat from my previous job saying, “Stay safe, my friends.” My former colleagues started waking up to air raid sirens, rocket attacks and fighter jets roaring overhead, and I saw their online status go from yellow to green as they were starting to send brief replies saying they were safe so far.
Brickmania “Ghost of Kyiv” Custom Mig-29 Fighter Plane Kit
Thanks to colleagues like these in Kharkiv, Odessa and the capital Kyiv, as well as expats here in the United States, I learned to love the Ukrainian people and their independent spirit. Ukrainians have been fighting for freedom and democracy since declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This fight became much more visceral in 2014, when a democratic “dignity revolution” toppled a government corrupt, oligarchic and pro-Russian. Russian Vladimir Putin reacted immediately by annexing the Ukrainian region of Crimea and launched a proxy war to take control of the industrial region of Donbass in eastern Ukraine. This led not only to atrocities like the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 that year, but also to a Russian-backed insurgency against the democratic government in kyiv – for many in Ukraine, the Russian invasion began in 2014, not February 24, 2022. But since February, through the mass killings of civilians by the Russian army in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol and elsewhere; the ethnic cleansing of more than 2 million Ukrainians to Russia; and the continued indiscriminate rocket attacks and air raids on civilian targets such as schools and shopping malls across Ukraine today, this year’s large-scale invasion proved that Russia had the intent to commit acts of terrorism and ultimately genocide against the Ukrainian nation and its people. In the 5 months after the Russian invasion, most of my old team moved to western Ukraine, although nobody in the country is safe from Russian rocket fire and bombardment. Some staff from my former company chose to stay in Kharkiv, and at least one of them even sacrificed his life to defend his city and his nation.
For my friends in Ukraine, the Russian war is an existential threat, which makes this war particularly personal for me. Many other members of the LEGO enthusiast community have stepped up over the past few months to help Ukraine, including our friends at Citizen Brick, who we highlighted in March with their $145,000 raised for Ukrainian charities. thanks to the sale of personalized minifigs like that of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. .
I was particularly impressed with Dan Siskind and his team at Brickmania, which continued to produce a special line of custom LEGO kits with 100% of the profits serving needs in Ukraine. Like Citizen Brick, Brickmania also raised $140,000 via Ukraine benefits from custom LEGO kits ranging from individual minifigs to armored personnel carriers and captured Russian tanks.
More Brickmania custom kits benefiting Ukraine: T-64BV tank, captured T-80BVM tank, etc.
Thinking I might create a display at a LEGO convention like BrickCon later in the year, I quietly built the full line of Brickmania kits, along with custom minifigs to go with them. I never cease to be amazed by the level of detail and design of the Brickmania kits, like this version of the captured Russian T-80BVM tank nicknamed “Bunny” serving in the Ukrainian army, commanded by a former software engineer like my Ukrainian colleagues .
At the start of the 2022 invasion, I started following many soldiers online, including women serving as combat nurses. Last week I shared some photos of custom minifigs inspired by several real women serving in a variety of combat and support roles – Kateryna Halouchka, Anna Arkhipovaand Alina Mykhailova especially.
LEGO versions of some of the many amazing women who defend #Ukraine️ since #RussiaInvadedUkraine. My grandfather was a ????????? doctor during WWII, and I deeply respect combat medics and other fighters ???????? fascism in ???????? today. Slava Ukraine! @katalina_ada @tsunami_zsu @Mykhailova_A pic.twitter.com/kNGjXHhy3e
—Andrew Becraft ???????????????????????? (@AndrewBecraft) July 14, 2022
My little group of minifigs seems to have struck a chord with Ukrainians, and last week the Ukrainian press picked up the story, with articles in Vogue Ukraine, Euromaidan Press, and even the official page of the Ukrainian nation on LinkedIn! Many commenters have asked to see minifig versions of the soldiers who resisted in the Azovstal steelworks so that the rest of the Ukrainian army could defend major cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv. I just shared a new group of figurines representing these heroes of Ukraine.
The @DefenceU Marines, @ng_ukraine guards, @TDF_UA volunteers and others #AzovstalDefenders which lasted nearly 3 months in Mariupol, bogging down the ???????? armed and allowing ????????? win the battle for Kyiv.
—Andrew Becraft ???????????????????????? (@AndrewBecraft) July 20, 2022
I’ve also received many requests for copies of the minifigs, but unfortunately they use non-production parts and custom parts that are only available in very limited quantities. Instead, I plan to send smaller batches of these figures to Ukraine to be auctioned off for humanitarian aid and equipment. In the meantime, if you’re reading this and want to build your own combat medics, marines, or other Ukrainian defenders, here’s a short list of where I bought the LEGO pieces and custom pieces:
- Custom printed military uniforms and headwear from Brickmania and Citizen Brick
- Custom weapons and helmets by BrickArmsavailable at Brickmania, Citizen Brick and elsewhere
- Faces, hair, animals, etc. Standard LEGO from Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic World, LEGO City and other themes, available individually from sellers on brick link