Well-known custom LEGO makers Citizen Brick‘s founder Joe Trupia recently made headlines with a massive fundraising effort to help Ukrainians in need. Fond of the fringes of society when it comes to their custom products, Joe chose to help how he could. Citizen Brick made use of their “unique designs” to produce a custom Volodymyr Zelenskyy minifigure and accompanying toy Molotov cocktails. By the end of their efforts, Citizen Brick had raised over $145,000 for Ukraine through the DirectRelief fund.
Though Citizen Brick has since stopped production of these items, they urge LEGO collectors and fans all over the world to donate to support organizations such as DirectRelief that are supporting humanitarian efforts for the victims of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.
The story of this Naperville, Illinois artist and his company has been picked up by the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the Chicago Tribune along with plenty others since. As Joe told the Post, “I just felt that I had to act using what I had.” Given the amount of emails he’s been getting since starting this campaign, I’d say this artist and his company certainly made their mark. According to his interview in the Tribune, Joe has gotten plenty of emails from Ukrainian citizens of all ages requesting a Zelenskyy of their own “when they win” as they apparently “phrase it…in every one of the emails.” It’s no surprise, since Zelenskyy has become an icon for his people during the war. As Trupia puts it in the Post, “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.”
The minifigures and toy Molotovs sold out in two batches, the first on March 5th raising over $16,000 and the second on the 9th raising over $128,000. “I really wish we could do more, but we weren’t really outfitted for it,” Trupia told the Post. Citizen Brick won’t be making any more batches due to supply and capacity limits, though he does hope to one day deliver the 50 he set aside for Ukrainians that have requested them. As he puts it, “…there seems to be this kind of real thread of optimism from the people there. They’re really very resilient, and it just kind of makes us wish we could do more of this for them.” Though products like this (and the rest of Citizen Brick’s available collection) skirt the line of tolerance from the LEGO Group, the community they represent is just another aspect of the imagination inspired by our favorite bricks. Plus, Christopher Borreli from the Tribune points out, his fans outnumber his critics. Count the staff of The Brothers Brick amongst the fans because Joe and his team really achieved something special here.
Though the minifigures aren’t available anymore, Citizen Bricks encourages its fans and others to donate to DirectRelief or another organization seeking to help with the humanitarian resources needed by the Ukrainian people.