The LEGO-based figurine inspired by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, made by Citizen Brick to raise money in support of Ukraine (all images courtesy Citizen Brick)

Chicago-based toy company Citizen Brick has raised $145,000 for medical aid in Ukraine with its new Zelensky LEGO-inspired minifigure, showing that everyone has a part to play in war relief. The company, founded in 2010 by artist and LEGO enthusiast Joe Trupia, decided to apply its signature approach to unorthodox LEGO-style sets, figurines, and accessories. The Zelensky minifig,” as the figures are known, retailed for $100 each and sold out in hours, as did Molotov cocktail accessories bearing the Ukrainian flag, which sold for $20 each. All proceeds from the sales were donated to the nonprofit humanitarian organization Direct Relief.

“If you’d asked me a month ago who the President of Ukraine was, I probably couldn’t have told you,” Trupia told NPR. ” And it really is an uncommon kind of heroic act, I think. It really impressed me that he was kind of staying there for his people and really kind of leading the way that they needed him to at the minute.”

Citizen Brick’s Zelensky cuts a recognizable figure, clad in combat greens and sporting a five o’clock shadow. Despite international demand for more Zelensky figs, Citizen Brick will not be making more than the initial run. This is due to supply chain issues, as the figurines and bottle bombs were made using spare parts the store happened to have on hand, and are not available through LEGO.

Minifig accessories based on Molotov cocktails and featuring the Ukrainian flag

“We could not make any more unless we had a giant donation from LEGO directly,” Trupia said. “These are pretty scarce materials that we just had around the shop.”

The good folks at Citizen Brick are not only providing the off-label figurines craved by LEGO-maniacs (who are also regular maniacs — see, for example, the horrifying Carrie-like prom queen figure dripping in blood, and LEGO-style babies that look like mummies and hot dogs) but also giving back to a community that has supported the business over the last decade.

“I have a lot of customers who are from that part of the world,” he told NPR. “And three weeks ago, they were just making TikTok videos and collecting toys. And next thing you know, they’re hiding in subway tunnels. And that was really startling.”

Trupia and the whole Citizen Brick crew can feel proud for turning toy figurines into six figures of charitable aid.

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...