Volodymyr Zelensky

President of Ukraine

There’s no doubt that Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine this past February was the most catastrophic global event of 2022. But it’s been the most devastating for the Ukrainian people themselves, for at least three key reasons. First, during the first six months of the war, the Russians killed thousands of civilians. Second, thousands more Ukrainian soldiers died in combat defending their nation. And third, shortly after the conflict started, the Russians began forcing more than 13 million Ukrainians from their country. Such brutality has generated international shockwaves, resulting in a refugee crisis, increased global tensions, and significant food production disruptions.

However, Ukraine has remained defiant and repelled most of Russia’s attacks. For many inside and outside the country, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been the face of the country’s resistance against Russia. Yet what might be surprising to some is that before he was president, Zelensky wasn’t a politician. He was an actor and comedian who is best known for his role as the main character in a popular Ukrainian TV show, “Servant of the People.” Ironically, the character Zelensky played in the show was a high-school history teacher who unexpectedly gets elected president of Ukraine after a viral video filmed by one of his students shows him ranting against government corruption in his classroom.

Why They Made the Worthy 100: Today, this former actor, who refuses to leave the country despite being the number one target for Russia, has turned into a skilled world leader in the real world. He’s made speeches at the United Nations accusing Russia of war crimes, criticized the Western NATO powers for not enforcing a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine, and requested that those same Western nations provide Ukraine with artillery supplies, air defense systems, jet fighters, and more to help his Ukrainian forces. As a public speaker, Zelensky has come into his own, often comparing his country’s struggle to a struggle from one of the Western powers he’s speaking to. For instance, in England, he spoke to the British parliament and described how his country’s fight was similar to Britain’s fight against Nazi Germany in World War II. Yet when he gave a speech in Ireland, he warned of the dangers of famine that might take place since Ukraine would be unable to export any food during the conflict.

As a political leader, Zelensky has become a beloved and heroic symbol of freedom in the face of aggression to both the people of Ukraine and internationally.

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