Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, numerous fundraisers have been launched to help Ukrainians in need, from GoFundMe campaigns to Airbnb bookings.
But one Chicago artist chose a singular figure in the crisis and began to design a Lego-style figurine of the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Joe Trupia is the owner of Citizen Brick, a toy manufacturing company. At Citizen Brick, Trupia takes “the iconic LEGO® mini-figure and print[s] his own (wildly inappropriate) unique designs on them”.
Although he has no personal connections to the war, Trupia felt compelled to help.
“I just felt that I had to act using what I had,” he told the Washington Post.
As a result, he decided to design two types of models he thought symbolized the country’s “bravery in the face of tyranny”: the Ukrainian president – and, more controversially perhaps, tiny toy molotov cocktails.
Zelenskiy’s figurine features the president with his current signature appearance – a military green T-shirt and jacket, black boots, neat short hair and stubble, with an expression somehow combining fatigue, outrage and defiance on its little plastic face.
“He’s a guy who could’ve fled the country with a suitcase full of money and instead he’s sticking by his people … I was just so impressed by his steadfastness and the hope he seems to give to people,” Trupia told the Post.
The molotov cocktail is chosen as a sign of desperate rebellion by ordinary people with few weapons to unleash against a much more powerful foe. The small items comprise a green bottle with the Ukrainian flag and a plastic orange “flame”.
“The irony of selling a little toy incendiary device in order to buy medical supplies for refugees isn’t lost on me,” said Trupia.
Since Citizen Brick’s first sale on 5 March, with the Zelenskiy figurine going for $100 and the molotov cocktails for $10 each, the company has raised $145,388, selling out each batch within a matter of hours.
On Thursday, Citizen Brick announced that it has sold out every Zelenskiy figurine and petrol bomb and donated the proceeds to the charity organization Direct Relief, which is responding to Ukraine’s humanitarian appeals.
Due to limited supply of necessary parts, the manufacturer will no longer be creating more figurines.
“I really wish we could do more, but we weren’t really outfitted for that,” Trupia said.
Citizen Brick is not tied to Lego but the Danish toy giant apparently tolerates its small-scale activities, and itself has made a multimillion donation of aid to Ukraine as well as suspending sales in Russia, the Post further reported.
Meanwhile, Lost Worlds, a North Carolina brewery has started to sell 32-ounce take-home beer flasks with labels in the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine’s flag but featuring a picture of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, sales of which will be donated to the National Bank of Ukraine’s Fund for Refugees, Axios reported.
The final kicker? the label reads: “Putin is a dick.”