Zelenskyy has been called a hero by many in his country and abroad, and over the last year, established himself as a symbol of defiance and democracy while he continues to lead the nation through Russia’s unprovoked attacks on Ukraine.
“Whether one looks at this story of Ukraine with a sense of hope or a sense of fear, and the story is, of course, not fully written yet … Zelenskyy has really galvanized the world in a way we haven’t seen in decades,” Felsenthal said.
In an essay revealing Zelenskyy as 2022 Person of the Year, Time reporter Simon Shuster wrote: “Zelenskyy’s success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious. It spread through Ukraine’s political leadership in the first days of the invasion, as everyone realized the President had stuck around.”
Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and Zelenskyy refused to leave Kyiv, instead staying on the ground and supporting the people of his country. “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” Zelenskyy told the U.S., according to a tweet shared by the Ukrainian embassy of Britain on Feb. 26.
The war in Ukraine has continued for nearly 10 months with no end in sight. Zelenskyy has made risky visits to support Ukrainian soldiers and the country at large, including a trip to the frontlines of the Donbas region in June, and celebrating with residents of the city of Kherson after Russian troops withdrew in November.
Zelenskyy told the magazine that his security was against his visit to Kherson because of the poor shape the Russians left the city in, as well as the possibility that they left behind agents and saboteurs who could harm him. But the answer as to why he did it was simple: “It’s the people.”
After visiting the liberated city of Kherson, Zelenskyy in his private carriage as he heads back to Kyiv.Photograph by Maxim Dondyuk for TIME
“My security was 100% against it,” Zelenskyy told Time during the trip to Kherson. “They took it hard. They can’t control practically anything in a region that has just been de-occupied. So it’s a big risk, and, on my part, a bit reckless.”
But Zelenskyy’s willingness to stay has inspired Ukrainians to take up arms in the fight against Russia.
“Zelenskyy gives me confidence,” a 35-year-old woman identified as Natasha in Ukraine told TODAY. “For me, Zelenskyy is the real fighter of democracy worldwide and for the peaceful future of our children and our world.”
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