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Legend for the whimsies in the Rekunenko Untitled Puzzle

Updated March 29, 2024 with longer descriptions Our Rekunenko Untitled puzzle was painted by Ukrainian painter Valentine Rekunenko in Tokmak (Ukraine) in 2022 during the Russian occupation. All profits from this puzzle are...

Updated March 29, 2024 with longer descriptions

Our Rekunenko Untitled puzzle was painted by Ukrainian painter Valentine Rekunenko in Tokmak (Ukraine) in 2022 during the Russian occupation.

All profits from this puzzle are being donated to Direct Relief, a non-profit that delivers emergency medical supplies to people in crises across the globe. This month Direct Relief is bringing help to Ukraine, Gaza, Haiti, and more.  

The puzzle design by Matt Lyon has realistic and surrealist figural pieces inspired both by the painting's imagery and by the Russian-Ukraine conflict.  

Scroll down for photos of the figural pieces in this puzzle, with some explanations for those who have not followed the conflict closely. 

This whimsy is an homage to Banksy's street art painted in Ukraine early in the conflict of an underdog (the boy) flipping a stronger opponent (in this case, Russia, who planned to take Kyiv in 3 days).  That was 750 days ago. 


Ukraine is famous for growing sunflowers.  In a legendary act of defiance that went viral and foreshadowed this becoming a long war, an old Ukrainian woman told the invading Russian soldiers to put sunflower seeds in their pockets, so that sunflowers would grow when they fell. 


Drone - this conflict will go down in military history as the first widespread use of drones on both sides


Soldier hand-launching a home-made drone


Medics carrying a wounded comrade.



The tryzub or trident, is a national symbol of Ukraine.


Soldier lying in wait with gun. 


Soldier with gear, on the move.


Beavers have been credited with making the land near Belarus marshy, and the marshes provide a natural barrier to invasions from Belarus, an ally of Russia. 


The rooster man whimsy echos the rooster people painted in this surrealist painting that reflects the existential tensions of living life in an occupied zone. 



The lion tamer whimsy echos the lion and lion tamer walking down the street in this surrealist painting.


The clown whimsy was inspired broadly by the Fellini style of some of the imagery. 


The plump ballerina was inspired by the tone of the image and the importance of ballet in both the Russian and Ukrainian cultures.  


The unicycling clown juggling echos the juggler balancing on a large egg in the painting. 


A chess piece whimsy represents the strategy and calculation of the conflict. 


Military vehicle with gun turret.


Solider nervously advancing.


Renee Magritte style man, walking a pet crocodile, is a surrealist whimsy inspired by the man walking tortoise in the painting, but also pays homage to the darker, more ominous tones of the imagery. 


Military vehicle. 


The sinking of the Moskva battleship was a key strike by the Ukraine navy in reducing the effectiveness of the Russian navy. 


The sea monster whimsy reflects the sea monster in the painting, and serves as a symbol of the anxiety of war. 


Another sea monster whimsy! 


Uh, also a sea monster...   See what happened is we made a few sea monster whimsy options, but then we liked them all...  



 Another viral bit of imagery from the conflict was farmers towing tanks with their tractors.

The determined resistance of Ukraine President (and comedian) Zelensky was a surprise both to the Russians and the USA. In a possibly apocrypal but influential quote, Zelensky told Americans who offered to help him flee as the invasion began, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”   


Zelensky meets with a soldier on the frontline.


Long-range missiles play a key role in the conflict.


The shiba inu dog is the symbol of NAFO, the North Atlantic Fella Organization, a decentralized global amateur social media movement that shines light on this conflict through dark humor, memes, and twitter battles with Russian propagandists.


A babushka, which is a common affectionate word in both Russia and Ukraine (and Poland) for a mother or grandmother.   

6 comments on Legend for the whimsies in the Rekunenko Untitled Puzzle
  • Maya
    MayaMarch 29, 2024

    We have updated the blog post to answer the questions raised in the earlier comments asking for more explanation about some of the surrealist whimsies and what they have to do with the conflict. The short answer is “War is surreal.”

  • Katherine Krueger
    Katherine KruegerMarch 25, 2024

    Thank you for providing the legend for the Untitled puzzle whimsies. However, some of them still seem obscure to me; not the whimsy itself but the relevance to the conflict: Rooster Man; Clown (Putin?); Plump Ballerina; Unicycle clown; Man walking Crocodile; and the three Sea Monsters (although I am always happy to see Sea Monsters in any puzzle!). Can you provide any further explanation? Thanks!

  • Hronir Jones
    Hronir JonesMarch 25, 2024

    Direct Relief is terrific, glad to support them, wish the world didn’t need them, but we do, and now more as much as ever (look, I’m not one of those old people crowing on about how the world is getting worse, I’m just saying it isn’t quite right yet.)

  • Ellie Kilham
    Ellie KilhamMarch 23, 2024

    I am very moved by the special whimsies, (misnomer in this case), included in this puzzle and so pleased profits from it will go to support Direct Relief.

  • J. Robertson
    J. RobertsonMarch 23, 2024

    Thank you for explaining the meaning behind the whimsies – well thought out. Lovely puzzle and fun to put together, as well. Also, generous of Artifact to donate the profits to Direct Relief.

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