Ukraine leader Zelenskyy’s wild ride: Jewish comedian to national hero

by John Daniszewski Associated Press from WARSAW, POLAND

147214Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation via his phone in the center of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed toward the capital, and street fighting broke out as officials urged residents to take shelter. The president refused a U.S. offer to evacuate.(Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)February 26, 2022

When Volodymyr Zelenskyy was growing up in southeastern Ukraine, his Jewish family spoke Russian and his father once forbade him from going abroad to study in Israel.

Instead, the young Mr. Zelenskyy studied law at home. Upon graduation, he turned to movie acting and comedy – rocketing in the 2010s to become one of Ukraine’s top entertainers with the TV series “Servant of the People.”

In it, he portrayed a lovable high school teacher fed up with corrupt politicians who accidentally becomes president.

Fast forward just a few years, and Mr. Zelenskyy is the president of Ukraine for real. At times in the runup to the Russian invasion, the comedian-turned-statesman had seemed inconsistent, berating the West for fearmongering one day, and for not doing enough the next.

But his refusal to leave as rockets have rained down on the capital has also made him an unlikely hero to many around the world.

With courage, good humor, and grace under fire that has rallied his people and impressed his Western counterparts, the compact, dark-haired, 40-something former actor has stayed even though he says he has a target on his back from the Russian invaders.

Page created on 3/2/2022 12:00:41 PM

Last edited 3/2/2022 12:12:29 PM

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