To clarify what we intend by the title of this post and what is meant by “us”:
A member of the human race? Naturally. A proponent of (small “L”, small “D”) liberal democracy? No doubt. Jewish? True, he is, but I’m just a devoted ally of that hilarious, wise, and persecuted people, so that wasn’t what I meant in this particular case. No, we refer to something even more specific and personal for us. Volodymyr Zelenskyy (b.1978) was in The Business.
Zelenskyy was an actor and stand-up comedian prior to becoming President of Ukraine in 2019. He started out performing circa 1993 when he was still a teenager. He went on to star in the movies Love in the Big City (2008), Love in the Big City 2 (2010), Office Romance. Our Time (2011), Rzhevsky Versus Napoleon (2012), 8 First Dates (2012), Love in the Big City 3 (2014), the 8 First Dates sequels (2015 and 2016), and I, You, He, She (2018). And, get this — he’s the voice of Paddington in the Ukrainian releases of the Paddington movies!
Most significantly, Zelenskyy actually played the Ukrainian President on the sit-com Servant of the People (2015-2019)…which led to the formation of the Servant of the People political party in 2018, and Zelenskyy’s surprising election the following year. It’s crazy right? It’s as though Martin Sheen or Tony Goldwyn had become President of the United States based on playing TV Presidents. In light of the trajectories of Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump from the entertainment industry to the Oval Office we Americans live in a glass house, were it to come to stone throwing on this development. Not to mention George Murphy, Helen Gahagan Douglas, Sonny Bono, Fred Grandy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Franken, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Perhaps for the most distinguished comparison, we might want to contemplate Czech President and former absurdist playwright/dissident hero Vaclav Havel (whose play Guardian Angel I was honored to appear in during Havel Fest in 2006).
Ironically, Zelenskyy is a native Russian speaker, and most of his screen roles were in Russian — it’s not like he’s an enemy of the Russian minority in his country or a cultural enemy of the Russian people (aside from fighting autocracy, corruption, and Russia’s takeover of his country.) He (and his leadership) are merely obstacles to the lunatic ambitions of Putin, and apparently that is enough for the latter to want to destroy Ukraine — and (we scarcely dare to articulate) to risk the destruction of the entire world. God save us all!
Zelenskyy is young (he just turned 44 a month ago), and he’s already proven that he’s brave. I can’t tell if he’s funny — I don’t speak the language. But I do hope he proves wise and skillful enough to navigate the life-or-death problem at hand.
For a related post, please see The Ukrainians of Travalanche, posted a couple of days ago.
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