ourage deserves a reward. Naming the 44-year-old Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky the Time person of the year for 2022 did not come as a surprise. Plus, the magazine honoured The Spirit of Ukraine in their annual recognition. These are well-earned tributes and no complaints over these whatsoever. https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2022-volodymyr-zelensky/
More admirable, Zelensky has been president for a mere three years. Spearheading his tiny nation’s (Ukraine is 3.55 per cent of Russia’s land area) spirited resistance against Russian aggression, Zelensky has become the source of inspirational zeal and motivating wit for his countrymen. Doubtless, he is the stuff great wartime leaders are made of. As Zelensky rides into the Russian storm with remarkable valiance, global nations are sitting up in awe and admiration. Forget for a moment, Elon Musk in 2021 and Vladimir Putin in 2007 were among Time awardees.
Speaking With Conviction
The storm Zelensky is weathering today is no match to Musk’s or Putin’s troubles. Zelensky’s determination to stay put in capital Kyiv, to stand with his countrymen, should qualify as the bravest moment in this war. Neither did Zelensky flee to a foreign refuge nor did he grab offers from helpful nations for Kyiv’s evacuation. Not overwhelmed, he had a classic Zelenski retort for them: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”https://nationalpost.com/news/world/i-need-ammunition-not-a-ride-zelensky-turns-down-u-s-evacuation-offer
With great conviction, Zelensky spoke these words, since immortalised. Invoking Winston Churchill, Zelensky went on to add: “We will fight till the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost. We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.”
In His Joking Best
Dead doggedness has earned Zelensky a permanent place in history. Zelensky differs from yesteryears’ political fugitives. Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled as Taliban entered Kabul in August 2021. Viktor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine then, fled to Russia in 2014 as protesters closed in. He continues to live in exile there. During World War II, a host of leaders – from Albania, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Yugoslavia – fled as Germans moved in. Zelensky hasn’t. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_heads_of_state_or_government_who_have_been_in_exile
Most of these courageless men lived out their wars in exile. None of them inspires Zelensky, who has chosen to stand by shelled Ukrainians. He derives his inner strength from his original profession. He was an actor, an improv comedian, who developed a great sense of humour as he staged his popular witty shows. He employs this humour and wit today to win the ongoing war.
With wit in his arsenal, Zelensky appears on the frontline in his combat fatigues and revels with his soldiers when the foe is pushed back, despite being not the official commander of his forces. Zelensky was seen in his humorous best when Kherson was taken back on 11 November. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-63621426
Commitment to Global Freedom
Zelensky’s ability to rally his fighting men and fellow Ukrainians has no parallel in modern war history. Reason why he is a household name. Though a part credit for this should be given to Ukraine’s new drone, Zelensky has been the prime mover behind. He is busy now, adding teeth to Ukraine’s weapons consortium to develop heavy-weight drones.
The Ukraine president, a Jew by birth, deserves more kudos for forcing Putin to concentrate his forces on the front line. This is no small feat. Finally, Zelensky’s commitment to Ukraine’s democratic aspirations and Ukrainians’ right to freedom remains as steadfast as ever. This commitment makes Zelensky’s Time award well-bestowed. As a major humanitarian crisis unfolds in Ukraine and Europe, in terms of deaths and refugees, Zelensky knows how democracy impacts humanity.
Such a realisation took him to the United Nations General Assembly, where he demanded Russia’s veto on the Security Council be revoked. https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20220405-live-ukraine-s-zelensky-to-address-security-council-amid-outrage-over-bucha-killings If, tomorrow, the Security Council agrees with him, it will be a sign of the global body’s commitment to global freedom. Zelensky can well claim the credit for such a positive development.
Words With Rallying Power
Zelensky, the motivator-president, is not Ukraine’s sole source of inspiration. His thousand-odd wartime speeches have inspired an entire generation of Ukrainians. The speeches continue to fire up Ukrainians to rise and fight. These deliveries have been published by Penguin Random House in a new book A Message From Ukraine. “Supporting Ukraine is not a trend, a meme or a viral challenge,” says author Zelensky in the publisher’s statement. https://www.bertelsmann.com/news-and-media/news/a-message-from-ukraine-by-volodymyr-zelensky.jsp
Zelensky’s words have the power to rally Ukrainians against their oppressors. Where does Zelensky get his inspiration from? His initiation into democratic politics could have begun when his studio released the political satire ‘Servant of the People’ in 2015.
The Globe of Turgid Tweets
The satire featured Zelensky as a corruption-hating teacher, whose viral rants end up elevating him to Ukraine’s presidency. Ukrainians’ rapport with Zelensky has intensified since then. This rapport flowered into mass political support, particularly after Ukraine rallied behind him in May 2019. Wry humour has remained with him since then. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/04/14/what-i-learned-servant-people/
In a turbulent universe of turgid tweets, fame is earned and lost in a matter of hours. But, Zelensky’s elevation as a national hero and later as a global symbol of valiant resistance are not vanquishable by social media posts. He has carved for himself a permanent niche in the wartime history of the world. The Time award recognises this.
Zelensky’s penchant for pithy deliveries warrants greater recognition here. His impromptuous one-liners are unforgettable. He prefers sharp and short retorts over grandiloquent speeches. In fact, his subtle skill to turn his witticisms into warheads makes his Time person-of-the-year award a well-deserved honour.
Laughing at Himself
As a former comedian, in the mould of Mel Brooks, Zelensky likes to laugh at himself and indulges in self-satire. This has endeared him to his not-so-stiff and not-so-strung people. Sure, these men adore him for his forthright independent views. https://blog.acton.org/archives/123204-volodymyr-zelensky-is-the-servant-of-the-people.html
Adoration from unstrung men makes Zelensky the bugbear of self-obsessed autocrats. In fact, Zelensky is a reflection of this observation by The New Yorker: “Comedy is the peasant’s revenge on the king; laughter is man’s revenge on God.” When the French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy asked Zelensky whether he could make Vladimir Putin laugh, the response was in the positive. Reportedly, Zelensky said: “This man does not see; he has eyes, but does not see; or, if he does look, it’s with an icy stare, devoid of all expression.”
Wry Wit as a Weapon
There is nary a doubt the essence of Zelensky’s politics is in seeing. As autocrats cannot see things through the eyes of others, Zelensky added: “Laughter is a weapon that is fatal to men of marble.” Zelensky is using this laughter and his wry humour today as his weapons to counter Putin’s aggression. https://www.theknowledge.com/2022/03/17/laughter-as-a-weapon/
Again, this laughter makes Zelensky appreciate his real task has less to do with the war and more to do with how the war is perceived around the globe. Zelensky is sure his primary job as Ukraine’s wartime president is to make the democratic world experience this war the way Ukrainians experience it these days. In Zelensky’s view, the ongoing war is a question of Ukraine’s survival. Convinced, America has aided Ukraine with sophisticated war equipment. Europe too has chipped in. At once, Zelensky has become a war hero in global media. Despite this popularity, his wit and humour is intact. This is his strength in the face of an illicit Russian aggression.
Honesty Over Diplomacy
Again, when America, United Kingdom and their allies offered to help Zelensky set up his government in exile, somewhere in eastern Poland, he wasn’t keen. He wanted to stay put in Ukraine to stand alongside his traumatised people. https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/ukraine-conflict/1646551562-report-us-preparing-for-possibility-of-zelensky-fleeing-ukraine
Sure, the most admirable quality of Zelensky is his determination to act as any average Ukrainian would do during moments of crisis. Add to this his penchant for bluntness, Zelensky is a potent cocktail. In a globe where diplomacy reigns over everything, Zelensky is different, an in-your-face speaker and doer.
Consider this anecdotal evidence for more proof. As global leaders agreed to send weapons to Ukraine, Germany dithered. In April this year, when the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier was on his way to visit Kyiv, Zelensky told him not to come. Such bluntness shows Zelensky’s moral strength. His honesty takes over hot diplomacy, a rarity today. https://www.politico.eu/article/ukraine-frank-walter-steinmeier-snub-disappointment-germany/
A Witty Wartime President
Though such bluntness may be construed as insulting, Zelensky is sure he wants to mould global attitudes in favour of Ukraine. He knows he should be a positive communicator and not a pompous military strategist, a witty wartime president and not a wispy warmonger militarist.
To enable fast decisions on the warfront, Zelensky is forced to live away from his wife and two children. Their safety apart, this is to ensure Zelensky lives with his people, most of whom are separated from their families. As he lives away, his presidential compound sports a golden trident, Ukraine’s state symbol, on the wall behind him. As a complement, he is inspiringly attired in his olive green T-shirt, his trademark attire since the onset the war.
As Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson on 9 November, conflict-chroniclers lost no time in including this landmark among the greatest military victories in history. They likened it to the Allied landing at Normandy on D-Day during World War II. Not carried away by such flattering comparisons, Zelensky said: “This is not yet a final point in the fight against evil.” https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2022-volodymyr-zelensky/
Victory for Zelensky means more than mere liberation of a geographical territory. He says: “My intention is to make this the last, even if it takes a lot more time and sacrifice. I have not finished this great, important action for our country. Not yet.” With such wartime philosophy, couched in soul-stirring wit, Zelensky could well be on his way to finish the war in glory. Sure, Time will stand vindicated.