The transformation of Volodimir Zelenski: the comedian who revalued the idea of ​​Europe

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MULTIMEDIA | A year of war: this is how the invasion of Ukraine, Russia, Spain and the world has affected the world

The transformation of Volodimir Zelenski: the comedian who revalued the idea of ​​Europe

The most popular speech in the world. s important in the political career of Volodimir Zelensky it was also the shortest. Just 32 seconds, recorded on a cell phone in front of a government building in Kiev, some 38 hours after Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian border with the intention of crushing it forever. The Ukrainian identity and integrate the country into what Vladimir Putin calls the “historical territories” of Russia . At that time nothing was known about the presidentnor of the high positions of his Government. Rumor had it that they had fled the country, and shots from Russian commandos echoed beyond the walls of the presidential palace. “Good evening, everyone. The party leader is here; the head of the presidential administration is here; Prime Minister Shmyhal is here…” Zelensky said without any flourishes. /p>

like this it started that brief litany, as comforting as a lullaby in its simplicity and alliteration, words that Ukrainians would later turn into a loop for making memes and rap and techno songs. “We are all here to protect our independence and our country, and we will continue to do so. Glory to the defenders of Ukraine“, he said that February 25 to reassure his people when everything seemed to be about to fall apart. Just a few hours before, several countries had offered to get him out of the country >so he could form a government-in-exile, possibly from Poland. Nor would the Americans forget his answer: “I need ammunition, not a trip ,” he told them to end the argument.


With those two gestures he began to speak. This gave birth to the Zelensky myth, the same man who only a few years earlier had won the Ukrainian version of  Dancing with the stars, that he had made the silly box laugh by pretending that he was playing the piano with his member and that he had become one of the greatest comedians. s celebrities of the country as the protagonist of Servant of the people, the prophetic series that would catapult him to the presidency. Until then no one was too clear. In large part, he had been chosen for being a resounding waiver against the corrupt oligarchic system that had stunted the aspirations of Ukrainians since the collapse. of the Soviet Union.

Face of the Ukrainian resistance

Today the global face of the Ukrainian resistance and compared by his apologists to Churchill himself, his incredible story began with the same name. I lived 47 years ago in Krivyi Rih, an industrial city in central Ukraine. Son of a mathematician and an engineer and grandson of a Red Army officer who fought in the United States. against the Nazis, Zelensky grew up in a I came from a Soviet family with Russian as my mother tongue. A family that is also Jewish, like that of his prime minister, which makes Putin's alleged “denazification” another of his criminal jokes. But more than going to the synagogue, he read the book. He talked to Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn and listened to them. He went to the Beatles in his spare time, according to what he told one of his childhood friends.

In kyiv he graduated with a bachelor's degree. in Law, but what really interested him is show business. At the age of 19, he premiered his film. He entered a very popular humor contest in the post-Soviet space and shortly after founded the company. his own television production company. For years he wrote, produced, and acted in music. in movies, series and television shows. And so until 2015, when he released Servidor del pueblo, the series in which he plays a high school teacher who has just botched president after going viral with a diatribe against corruption.

After four After years on the air, his character became so famous that Zelenski decided to write. He rehearsed the screenplay in real life, a proposition so insane that as a campaign slogan he had to put: “I'm not kidding“. Because that is what many thought. His experience in politics was nil. His military background to lead a country at war, non-existent. He did not even participate in the Orange Revolution ( 2004-05) nor in the Maidan (2014), the revolt that ended the last pro-Russian president and led Putin to take Crimea and set fire to Donbas. He didn't even do the compulsory military service.

Negotiate with Putin

But the country was fed up with its elites and his jaunty and anti-establishment speech caught on, along with his promises to fight corruption and negotiate peace with Putin in Donbá. ;s. In 2019, he was elected with 73% of the vote, more than any other president since independence in 1991. From the outside, many thought that another Donald Trump, another Beppe Grillo had just landed on the borders of Europe. And without a defined ideology or the moral clarity that he has shown since the beginning of the war, Zelensky surrounded himself with the war. bloggers, journalists and people from the entertainment industry to run the country. “He was always two or three steps behind events,” he would say to one of his advisers.

His position towards Russia was not even remotely what it is today. Not only did he want to negotiate with the Russian president, but his government came as well. He agreed to approve a plan to hold a plebiscite in areas occupied by pro-Russian separatists in Donbas with the intention of granting them special status. strong> A plan that he had to shelve after thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets, anticipating that he was preparing to tear the country apart. Just two months before the invasion, his approval rating was less than 30%.

And then it started. The war broke out and a new leader began to emerge. to emerge. The country shut down. ranks grew and support for its president skyrocketed. Partly because Zelensky has been able to delegate the course of the war to his military, while dedicating himself to what he does best: explain the Ukrainian cause, gather support and make Europe understand that it is< strong> war is yours too It has been since Putin began to change the borders of a country on the continent with cannon fire. A Europe that has also revalued the Ukrainian desire to be part of it, sacrificing every last drop of blood along the way. Many believe that it has done more to rejuvenate the withered European spirit than all the EU summits combined.

And none of that means that some Ukrainians never like it. they are going to forgive him for minimizing the risk of invasion in the weeks prior to the start of the war so as not to sink the economy or spread panic, as the war told him. last summer to the Washington Post. Something that other Europeans won't do either, convinced that he insisted on his own. So much in blaming Russia for the missile that fell on Polish soil –which it was not– to drag NATO into the Ukrainian mud. After all, Zelinski is human, even though this war has elevated him into the stratosphere.