The hero of fighting Ukraine who united the world
Nothing foreshadowed his political career. A lawyer by education, a comedian by profession, an actor, a dancer, a dubbing artist and a producer.
Through his participation in a hit TV series and a bit of coincidence, he went from show business representative to statesman and leader of the country.
The current President of Ukraine has surprised the world with his heroism, determination and courage. His actions have given hope for a better future not only for Ukraine, but for all of Central and Eastern Europe.
Kryvyi Rih was founded in the 17th century by Zaporozhian Cossacks. Its rapid development began in 1881. In the 1970s it was an important center of metallurgy and metal industry and one of the largest cities in Ukraine - with a population of over 500,000.
At that time it was also one of the most polluted agglomerations in the former Soviet Union.
This language was used at home, so Russian became his first language. He did not start learning Ukrainian until he was an adult.
Zelensky's great-grandparents perished in the Holocaust, as did his grandfather's three brothers. As a 16-year-old, Zelenskyy received a scholarship to study in Israel, but turned it down under the influence of his father, who did not approve of his son traveling so far away.
When he was a few years old, the family moved to Erdenet - now the second largest city in Mongolia after Ulaanbaatar - where his father was sent to build a mining plant. The family stayed together in Erdenet for four years. Volodymyr completed the first grade there, after which he and his mother returned to Kryvyi Rih.
His father stayed in Mongolia for several more years.
It was a school with an intensive English program. All the teachers of the school remember Volodymyr as an intelligent and hard-working child who had a lot of fun on the stage.
He performed in the school choir, dance group, and school cabaret. He had a deep voice, which got in the way when he sang, but made him stand out from other students.
Later he was called Green (after his surname). Volodymyr's interest in humanistic subjects was the cause of his father's displeasure, as he wanted his son to study science - mathematics and physics.
Yielding to the suggestions of his father, who insisted that his son learn a practical profession, Volodymyr entered the Faculty of Law at the Kryvyi Rih University of Economics, a branch of the Kiev National University of Economics, where his father was teaching at the time. He graduated in 2000.
He created his own miniature theater called "Homeless". Soon he founded his own troupe "Kryvyi Rih" together with members of the local troupe "Zaporozhye - Kryvyi Rih - Transit". This band changed its name to "Kvartal 95" in 1997.
Soon Zelenski became the leader of the group and the author of most of its skits. The group gained popularity in Ukraine.
This episode lasted from 1999 to 2003. At that time he became the co-owner of the production company Studio "Kvartal 95", which cooperated with the Russian television. He was the creator, author and host of television programs, including a cooking show, he produced concerts and was a choreographer.
Olena Zelenska (née Kiyashko) was born on February 16, 1978 in Kryvyi Rih. She met her future husband at the middle school, which they both attended. They met again at college, when Olena joined a cabaret group led by Volodymyr.
The couple got married on September 6, 2003.
They form a tight-knit, loving family. Volodymyr has repeatedly posted photos of his wife on his social media and has shared loving words with her. In one conversation, he said: "Olena is a part of me. She is like a hand for me, without which I could not function."
He continued his cabaret activities and began his career as a comedy actor. The TV cabaret formula "Kvartal 95" quickly became one of the most popular entertainment programs on Ukrainian television.
In the program he danced with his partner Olena Shoptenko. After this performance he became probably the most famous showbusiness figure in the country. The finale of the program gathered more than 87% of the total audience of Ukrainian channels.
In 2014 and 2017, he lent his voice to the title character in the films "Paddington" and "Paddington 2."
He publicly condemned Russia's actions and stressed that the territories annexed by the Russian Federation belong to Ukraine.
The 2015 series told the story of how, through a video recorded for a joke, its main character, quite by accident, becomes the president of Ukraine. In the series Volodymyr Zelenski played the role of the main character - history teacher Vasyl Goloboredko.
The series gained enormous popularity, gathered 20 million viewers in front of TV sets. It was broadcast in 3 seasons, the last one in 2019.
"Servant of the People" began airing in Russia in 2015, but as early as the first episode, viewers noticed that a joke insulting Vladimir Putin had been cut. Moments later, the series was taken off the air entirely, with network officials saying they had never planned to air more than three episodes of the series.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denied that the Kremlin had any influence on the channel's decision.
As explained at the time, the grouping was formed on the basis of the already existing Decisive Change Party. It was intended to protect the series title from political exploitation by outsiders. In 2018, Zelensky's name began to appear in presidential polls, which recorded growing support.
Zelensky's candidacy came as quite a surprise, both to Ukrainians themselves and to political scientists and other experts around the world. At first, few took seriously the candidature of the man who until recently entertained people by performing in a cabaret.
Some even thought it was another joke by a famous comic. In response to the initial criticism, Zelenski said: "First people will throw mud at me, then they will respect me, and when my term is over they will weep with grief that I am leaving." At first, Zelenski polled at 5-10% support. Gradually that support grew.
When registering as a presidential candidate, he submitted a declaration of assets showing that he owns several apartments and houses (including in Crimea and the UK) and has shares in 20 companies (including Studio Kvartal 95, League of Laughter, and Kvartal Concert).
He did not hide his flaws, tried to turn weakness into strength, and ran a positive campaign. He did not have a program, but invited his supporters to write one together. He offered voters common action, not promises to act on their behalf.
A campaign that was spare with words and promises created his image as a man outside of politics, which allowed him to reach out to different social groups, especially young and middle-aged people, who were united by their dislike of the ossified political system.
Elections were scheduled for March 2019. Zelenski's main opponents were the incumbent President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and the former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko.
He won the first round of the election on March 31, 2019, with more than 30 % of the vote. In the second round, held on April 21, 2019, he faced Petro Poroshenko and won more than 73% of the vote.
On the same day, he announced the dissolution of parliament, and in early elections the associated "Servant of the Nation" party won an absolute majority. This allowed the formation of a presidential-supporting government, with Oleksiy Honchruk as prime minister, later replaced by Denys Shmyhal.
During the conference held on October 10 - 11, 2019, President Zelenski answered 500 questions.
He quickly became known as a politician in his own right, with ambitions to break the existing political system in Ukraine. On June 2, 2021.
Zelenski submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a bill "On Preventing Threats to National Security Associated with Excessive Influence of Persons of Economic or Political Significance in Public Life (Oligarchs)". The goal of the bill, which passed its first reading on July 1, 2021, is to combat people who have significant wealth and considerable influence in society and politics.
In late October and early November 2021, Russia began to significantly increase the number of its troops and military equipment near the border with Ukraine. In February 2022, military exercises were held in Belarus together with the country's military. After the maneuvers, Russian troops did not return to Russia.
When offered to evacuate Kiev, Zelenski replied: "I need ammunition, not a lift." False information was spread about Zelensky's alleged escape from the country, but he did not leave Kiev all the time.
He encouraged his people, the army, and ordinary Ukrainians in videos and social media posts that were posted online daily.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy has become a recognizable symbol of the struggle for democratic values.
British and U.S. intelligence established that even before the war, Putin had located a special forces unit in Kiev with the mission of killing or capturing the Ukrainian president. Although he had been warned for weeks about the possibility of an assassination attempt, he did not leave the country.