“I need ammunition, not a ride”
The current President of Ukraine, Vloydemer Zelensky, has been described as a hero, a patriot, and an inspiration. However, he is also the 2006 winner of the Ukrainian equivalent of Dancing with the Stars and voiced Paddington in the Ukrainian dubbed movies. Zelensky even played a history teacher on a television show who was so outraged by government corruption that he ended up running for president and won. In terms of his presidency, Zelensky identifies as a populist and has positioned himself as anti-establishment and anti-corruption. During his presidency, he has been a proponent of e-government, the government use of “web-based Internet applications or other information technology,” and unity between the Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking parts of the country’s population by utilizing social media (USDA). During his administration, Zelensky has overseen the lifting of legal immunity for Ukraine’s parliament, the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, and progress in tackling corruption in Ukraine by trying to take power away from the Ukrainian oligarchs.
President Zelensky was born in the Soviet Union in 1978. He grew up in the town of Kryvyi Rih in the Pale of Settlement, the only region in the Russian Empire where Jews were allowed to live. Zelensky’s family was deeply affected by the Holocaust: his great-grandfather and three of his grandfather’s brothers died as a result of the Nazi invasion of Ukraine. Zelensky’s grandfather and brothers went to fight against the Nazis in the Red Army, but his grandfather was the only one who survived. His grandmother survived by escaping to Kazakhstan. The influence of his family may have influenced Zelensky’s response to the Russian invasion.
Although Zelensky claims that being Jewish is only a small part of his identity, he has still faced many difficulties because of it. The current situation in Ukraine evokes memories of World War II, when Ukrainians turned on their Jewish citizens, collaborated with the Nazis, and carried out actions that came to be known as the “Holocaust by Bullets” where 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews died. This is especially interesting considering Putin’s claims to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine”. The soviet union did help the allies defeat the nazis which is a source of pride for Russian citizens as the Nazis killed many soviets. This is a very compelling piece of propaganda. By saying this, he is saying that anything that comes from the West is Nazism because the Germans brought Nazism from the West. Although Ukrainian collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, the current Ukrainian democracy isn’t reflective of the WWII government from 80 years ago. In reality, Putin is frightened of democracy, not Nazism in Ukraine. While he claims the government to be a fascist, Zelensky won a free and fair election in 2019 in which he won 73% of the vote. Zelensky’s Jewish heritage also has an impact on Putin’s claims. A common form of Antisemitism is to say that Jews are Nazis. Putin targeted a government which is headed by a Jewish person. Putin is essentially claiming that Jews are the real Nazis.
Zelensky is a real person of many trades; he has truly done it all. The current crisis in Ukraine has catapulted him to the global stage. I hope to learn more about Zelensky in the future and am eager to see how he further approaches the crisis.