Story #121: Ukrainian activists' Bulletproof Vests Protect Children and Soldiers

November 10, 2023
The story of the Lviv Defence Cluster, the world's first organization dedicated to armouring Ukrainian children from Russian weapons.

In this article, we tell the story of the organization that was the first in Ukraine to begin providing bulletproof vests on a large scale to Ukrainian soldiers. It was also the first organization in the world to provide evacuation kits for children.

The History of LDC

Lviv Defense Cluster is a professional volunteer association that began operations in February 2022.

The creation of the organization was a quick response to the unfolding of Russia's full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine. The members of the LOC were given a specific mission: to produce and deliver personal protective equipment to the Armed Forces of Ukraine as soon as possible, free of charge.

Photo: LDC Archives

The cluster joined forces with the relocated Kharkiv Personal Protective Equipment Plant, as well as several entrepreneurs, volunteers, and ballistics and tactical equipment experts from across the country.

Within a few weeks, the cluster was mass-producing bulletproof vests at a rate of more than 1,500 per day.

The activists were able to produce and deliver more than 85,000 bulletproof vests by November 1, 2022, thanks to the team's efforts, donors, and partners.

LDC has currently produced approximately 100,000 bulletproof vests. Equipment for the military, as well as medics, the State Emergency Service, police, and journalists, is among them.

UkraineWorld spoke to the organization's team.

Kyrylo Novikov is a co-founder of the Lviv Defense Cluster (LDC) and head of the charity foundation "Assistance to the Lviv Defense Cluster".

Kyrylo's personal history of volunteering began in 2014. During the Euromaidan, he and other volunteers provided activists with bulletproof vests.

"At that time, we started making proto-bulletproof vests - a kind of "armour" made of thin tin with a lining that protected against batons and rubber bullets. These vests can now be found in museums."

Maksym Plekhov - chairman of the board of LDC.

In fact, we were ready for a full-scale invasion. We knew exactly what to do because the situation with bulletproof vests in Ukraine was dire.

This resulted in the formation of a group of like-minded individuals whose actions were aimed at providing the Armed Forces with the necessary equipment.

Large and medium-sized businesses quickly joined the activists.

"We bought armored steel.  Other materials were provided by volunteer organizations. At our peak, we could produce up to 2,000 bulletproof vests per day."

Maksym recalls that at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the organization had problems with the supply of materials. Foreign suppliers explained their refusals by saying that they "do not want to support the armed conflict."

However, everything eventually settled down. Thus, LDC became the first to supply the Ukrainian army on a large scale.

"At the same time, there was a great need to provide ammunition to the SES units," adds Maksym. - "The SES sappers were provided with bulletproof vests, but the regular rescuers were not. So we expanded our efforts."

Another critical task was to provide medical supplies, particularly for those working near the line of contact.

Photo: LDC Archives

LDC received many requests for medical crews. Gradually, they were able to provide all those who turned to the organization for help.

Photo: LDC Archives

Andriy Demchyshak - a research and development specialist.

Before the war, Andriy did not think he would do anything like this. However, at the beginning of the full-scale war, he and his friends began researching the production of bulletproof vests, and then quickly gained professional experience.

LDC supplies the military with bulletproof vests of the fourth class, i.e. the highest level of protection.

The armour plate is made up of three parts: a metal part, an anti-fragmentation layer, and a damper, which is a softening element that reduces the force of a bullet impact.

"The metal part of a bulletproof vest that absorbs the impact of a bullet is the most important component. We conducted extensive testing to determine the best metals for the 4th class of protection in accordance with Ukraine's state standard."


Lviv Defense Cluster became the world's first mass producer of bulletproof vests for children.

"We designed three sizes of bulletproof vests for three age groups. One of the main aspects is the maximum surface area and minimum weight, as it is difficult for children to wear body armour weighing 8-10 kg," says Andriy.

"These are first-class anti-shrapnel vests made of soft material. The development took a little longer because the vest needed to be comfortable and easy to put on because evacuations often take place in very rough conditions," Andriy concludes.

At the request of the National Police, the Embassy of Ukraine in Japan helped LDC with the production of children's evacuation kits.

"The evacuation is still in progress. We have visited many frontline areas. Our bulletproof vests for evacuating children are used everywhere on the frontlines, adds the head of the charity foundation," Kyrylo.


In addition, LDC is implementing other projects, among which is Children of War. This project has resulted in the launch of an inpatient rehabilitation unit at the Children's Hospital "Okhmatdyt" in Kyiv.

Thanks to donors, LDC has already begun renovating some of the premises and the center's primary mission will be to care for war-affected children.

The project will allow patients to undergo effective rehabilitation in comfortable conditions, using modern evidence-based methods, which will allow young patients to recover faster and return to normal life and healthy childhood.


In April 2023, the teams of LDC and the ArtArmor art project began cooperation. The operations of the collaboration work as follows: LDC donates armour plates that protect users from bullets or shrapnel, thus saving the lives of soldiers and other heroes of the front or in near-front zones.

Later, all these plates are transformed into unique art objects. Some are auctioned off, while others will go down as Ukrainian cultural treasures. The funds gathered from the auctions will be used to create new vests.

Other LDC projects can be found on the organization's website. In the meantime, anyone can become a donor, meaning you can save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.

Nika Krychovska
Journalist at UkraineWorld