Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, was on Tuesday, 6th of December, named Times magazine person of the year for 2022. The Ukrainian leader was selected from a shortlist of 10 people and organizations to contend for the accolade. But it is safe to say that the choice to give him this award was popular.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Zelensky led Ukraine in fending off a full-scale invasion by Russia, becoming a leader on the world stage. (Foreign affairs expert Amir Handjani wrote about how the war has led to a global food crisis).
Through his leadership, Ukraine has recaptured the territory it had lost to Russia and substantially halted its advance. But who is Volodymyr Zelensky, and how did Ukraine’s president become an international hero?
We share some fascinating facts about this fearless Ukrainian leader in this article. Some of these facts will leave you wondering, and others will make you more in love with the man.
1. Zelenskyy was originally an actor and comedian
He was a popular TV comedian less than four years ago. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Zelenskyy earned his law degree from Kyiv National Economic University in 2000, but he was active in comedy and comedy while in school.
His comedy troupe appeared in KVN’s 1997 televised improvisational comedy competition, and Zelenskyy became a regular.
He also starred in a TV show where he played the role of a school teacher who became Ukraine’s president after his rant against corrupt politicians (it looks like he predicted his future presidency).
Zelensky has also made headlines for several videos, including the one where he was playing the piano with his genitals. The Ukrainian leader surely knows how to entertain.
2. Zelenskyy’s show was once canceled in Russia after making a joke about Vladimir Putin
Hulu’s “Two Men at War” documentary by ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos revealed that Zelensky sparred with Putin long before the current military invasion.
On the show, a Hublot salesman tells Zelensky, “Do you know, by the way, who else wears this watch?” “Putin,” he adds.
Zelensky asks “Putin Hublot?”
The salesman replies, “Yes.”
According to the London Evening Standard, the pronunciation resembles the crude football and protest chants used against Putin by Ukrainians. In Russia, the show was canceled because of an “off-color joke,” ABC News senior national correspondent Terry Morgan said.
3. The Ukrainian president is an avid dancer
He captured viewers’ hearts with his performance on Dancing with the Stars in 2006. Zelenskyy has also lent his voice to animated films of Paddington in Ukrainian.
4. Zelensky is Jewish
Not only is Zelensky Jewish, but he is also the first Ukrainian Jewish president. His great-grandfather was the only one of his siblings to survive the holocaust. The Nazis murdered the other three brothers.
5. He became president with 73% of the votes
Zelensky ran a campaign mostly devoid of journalists and debates, relying on comedy, tours, and social media. On March 20, 2019, he won the presidential election.
He promised to negotiate peace with Russia and reduce the power of corrupt oligarchs who controlled the majority of Ukraine’s economy. However, he enjoyed the support of an oligarch, Ihor Kolomoisk.
In fact, Zelensky has also been accused of corruption and was named in the Pandora papers. He and his TV production company have been linked to offshore shell companies.
6. He and his partner, Olena Zelenska, have two children
According to Tatler, Zelenskyy met Zelenska in college when she changed focus from architecture to writing and joined his production company. Their two children are 17-year-old Aleksandra and 9-year-old Kiril.
7. Zelensky played a role in the first impeachment of Donald Trump
The Ukraine president became a household name in the United States for his role in the first impeachment of the former American president, Trump.
During a phone conversation with Trump in 2019, the then-US president urged Zelensky to help investigate Joe and Hunter Biden (the latter who served on the board of the UkraninaNatural Gas company). The phone call with Zelemnsky was part of what led Trump to be impeached by the house.
8. He is Active on Social Media
Volodymyr Zelensky is also super active on social media, where he posts daily videos to boost the morale amongst Ukrainians. He also sends powerful pleas to the Russians, in Russia, to stop and question what they are doing.
So there you have it. Volodymyr Zelensky is a man with many talents who rose to fame after winning a presidential election against all odds. He is also the brave leader of a nation fighting against the oppression of Russia.
Unsurprisingly, he is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2022.