Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy (Володимир Олександрович Зеленський) was an actor and a comedian before becoming the president of Ukraine. He is the sixth person to hold the position.
Zelenskyy was born in Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine to Jewish parents Oleksandr Zelenskyy and Rymma Zelenska. Oleksandr’s father Semyon “Simon” Ivanovych Zelenskyy served in the Red Army during World War II.
Before grade school, Volodymyr lived for four years in Erdenet, Mongolia where his father was employed. Volodymyr grew up speaking Russian before becoming fluent in Ukrainian and English.
Volodymyr and his wife Olena Zelenska have two children together. Here are 13 more things about him:
- In 1994, he passed the Test of English as a Foreign Language and received an education grant to study in Israel but his father did not allow him to go.
- In 1995, he entered the Kryvyi Rih Institute of Economics in Kryvyy Rih and he joined the comedy competition “Klub Vesyólykh i Nakhódchivykh” (KVN). He was part of the Zaporizhia-Kryvyi Rih-Transit, a team that won a national “KVN” competition in 1997. Also in 1997, he created the “KVN” team Kvartal 95, which made its official debut took place at the “KVN” festival in Sochi, Russia in 1998.
- In 2000, he graduated from the Kryvyi Rih Institute of Economics with a law degree.
- He, Shefir Serhiy and Shefir Boris founded a television entertainment production company called Kvartal 95 Studio, which was on the basis of the “KVN” team he created in 1997. The team started producing television shows for the Ukrainian TV channel 1+1 in 2003 then moved to another Ukrainian TV channel Inter in 2005.
- In September 2003, he married Zelenska. In July 2004, she gave birth to their daughter Aleksandra Zelenskaya.
- He and Olena Shoptenko won the first season of Ukraine’s “Dancing with the Stars” version, which aired on 1+1 from October 8, 2006 to November 26, 2006. He was one of the producers of the Ukrainian comedy series “Svaty” from 2008 to 2012. He played a dentist named Igor in the romantic comedy films “Love in the Big City” and “Love in the Big City 2,” which were released in 2009 and in 2012, respectively. In 2018, the sequel was banned in Ukraine.
- From 2010 to 2012, he worked for Inter as the general producer and a member of the board. In 2011, he played a financial analyst named Anatoly Efremovich Novoseltsev in the Russian-Ukrainian romantic comedy film “Office Romance. Our Time.” He played Napoleon Bonaparte in the Russian comedy film “Rzhevsky vs Napoleon” and a veterinarian named Nikita Andreevich Sokolov in the Russian-Ukrainian romantic comedy film “8 First Dates,” which were both released in 2012. He reprised his role as Nikita in the 2015 sequel “8 New Dates.”
- In January 2013, Zelenska gave birth to their son Kyrylo Zelenskyy.
- In August 2014, he publicly opposed the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture’s intention to ban Russian artists from Ukraine. Since 2015, Russian artists and other Russian works of culture have been banned from entering Ukraine.
- He played Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko in the Ukrainian political satire comedy series “Servant of the People,” which aired on 1+1 from October 16, 2015 to March 28, 2019. The character is a high-school history teacher in his thirties who is unexpectedly elected president of Ukraine.
- He and Anastasiya Korotkaya played a married couple in the comedy film “Me. You. He. She.“, which was released in Ukraine on December 27, 2018. On December 31, 2018, he announced his candidacy for the next Ukrainian presidential election.
- As the presidential candidate of the Servant of the People party, he defeated his independent opponent Petro Poroshenko during the Ukrainian presidential election in a two-round system on March 31, 2019 and on April 21, 2019. On May 20, 2019, he assumed office as the president of Ukraine.
- On February 24, 2022, he declared martial law in Ukraine. Earlier that day, Russia’s second president Vladimir Putin announced that Russia was initiating a special military operation in Donbas, Ukraine. On February 26, 2022, he refused the assistance offered by the governments of the United States and Turkey that were urging him to evacuate to a safer location amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On March 1, 2022, he submitted an application to the European Union to grant Ukraine immediate membership and delivered a speech before the union via video link, in which he said in part, “Do prove that you are with us. Do prove that you won’t let us go.”