TIME magazine has named Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian leader whose attempt to fight off Russia’s invasion of his country has won widespread acclaim, as its person of the year, alongside “the spirit of Ukraine.”
“Whether the battle for Ukraine fills one with hope or with fear, Volodymyr Zelensky galvanized the world in a way we haven’t seen in decades,” Edward Felsenthal, editor-in-chief of TIME explained Wednesday.
“In the weeks after Russian bombs began falling on Feb. 24, his decision not to flee Kyiv but to stay and rally support was fateful. From his first 40-second Instagram post on Feb. 25 – showing that his Cabinet and civil society were intact and in place – to daily speeches delivered remotely to the likes of houses of Parliament, the World Bank, and the Grammy Awards, Ukraine’s President was everywhere,” Felsenthal added.
Zelensky’s unlikely career path has taken him from comic actor to wartime president in the space of only a few years. He became president of Ukraine in April 2019, at the age of 41, having spent his previous years as a performer, starring in romantic comedies and co-founding a successful TV production company.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, he gained new fame as an international audience watched his impassioned video addresses from the streets of the shell-damaged capital, Kyiv, where he stayed, despite intelligence indicating he was a key target for the Russian invaders and a US offer of evacuation.
“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” he told the US, according to Ukraine’s embassy in Britain.
Felsenthal said “the spirit of Ukraine was embodied by countless individuals inside and outside the country.”
“For proving that courage can be as contagious as fear, for stirring people and nations to come together in defense of freedom, for reminding the world of the fragility of democracy – and of peace – Volodymyr Zelensky and the spirit of Ukraine are TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year,” Felsenthal said.
Zelensky follows Elon Musk as TIME person of the year for 2021. Russian President Vladimir Putin was TIME person of the year in 2007.
The title is not necessarily awarded as an honor, but indicates that the winner had influence on the world’s events.