In a year that has seen many twists and turns, one unfortunate constant throughout most of the year has been the war in Ukraine. This David and Goliath story continues to fascinate the attention of the world, especially since Goliath refuses to capitulate to the Russian war machine. The reason? The indomitable spirit and unmistakable charisma of one man: Vlodoymyr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy has held his country together with a dichotomy of grace and grit for nearly a year. As a result, Time Magazine has named Zelenskyy its coveted Person of the Year for 2022. Along with the man himself, Time also gave a nod to the courageous spirit of Ukrainians, both in the country and around the world.
A Man Moving in the Right Direction
For a country besieged by war, Zelenskyy’s invincible spirit is a beacon to his people, as well as Ukrainians and supporters around the world. “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,” Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal said when explaining why he was chosen this year for the honors.
The cover itself depicts Zelenskyy in his trademark army-green sweater, with a ring of individual figures and a throng of protestors surrounding him. Along with the people are a host of sunflowers, as well as Ukrainian flags. According to the editor, the decision was ““the most clear-cut in memory”.
“In a world that had come to be defined by its divisiveness, there was a coming together around this cause, around this country,” Felsenthal wrote. Time Magazine says that it was Zelenskyy’s clearcut refusal to evacuate when Russia invaded in February, as well as his willingness to visit the frontlines of his country, that have thrust him into the spotlight yet again as Person of the Year.
And in fact, being in the spotlight around the globe is one of his strategic plans when it comes to keeping his people safe. “If we fall out of focus, we are in danger,” Andiry Yermak, his chief of staff, said. To this end, Zelenskyy has been the voice of Ukraine to the rest of the world, begging NATO and countries such as the United States to come to their aid against Russia.
For Zelenskyy, the road to president of Ukraine has not entailed the typical trajectory. After playing a president on a television show, this former actor and comedian was elected president in 2019. His energy, intelligence, and quick wit have served him well as he has led his country in war.
“[Zelenskyy] was adaptable, trained not to lose his nerve under pressure,” writes Time reporter Simon Shuster. “He knew how to read a crowd and react to its moods and expectations. Now his audience was the world. He was determined not to let them down.” As the war has dragged on, insiders claim that Zelenskyy has matured as a commander and taken on even more leadership qualities.
When it came time to choose, Zelenskyy was at the top of a list of 10 people, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and U.S. Representative Liz Cheney. This year the women of Iran were honored as Heroes of the Year for fighting against the morality police, a battle they have waged at great personal expense.
It Takes a Village to Fight a War
Along with the man himself, Time Magazine is honoring “the spirit of Ukraine” as its person of the year this year. The magazine highlighted several individuals whose resilience and fortitude have aided the country in their long struggle against Russia, as these examples represent the indomitable spirit of the people. From humanitarian leaders to journalists, medical providers to ordinary citizens, this invincible energy has led the country through the dark days of war. “If the choices their President articulated gave moral clarity to an era we’d mostly been scrolling through, it was people who gave it meaning, by acting,” NPR reports.
Felsenthal said that “the ‘spirit of Ukraine’ referred to Ukrainians around the world, including many who ‘fought behind the scenes’. This includes people like Ievgen Klopotenko, a chef who provided thousands of free meals to Ukrainians and medic Yuliia Payevska who was captured, then released after three months in Russian captivity.” Another standout was British trauma surgeon David Nott, who went into Ukraine to help those injured, putting himself in harm’s way.
A Victory of Valor
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin was envisioning taking the country in three or four days. Nearly ten months later, Zelenskyy’s forces have not only largely halted the Russian advancements, but they have also allowed Ukraine to retake captured territory. Holding off a full-scale Russian attack has been no easy task. Although the country has been literally crumbling around him, Zelenskyy has stood firm amidst the attacks, including those against both military and civilian targets, as well as the capital of Kyiv. Zelensky has also been instrumental in halting the propaganda from Russia, with their false claims of genocide.
Zelenskyy’s courage has been paramount to the success of Ukraine in this war. “Zelensky’s success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious,” Time magazine said.
The man himself knows that his influence and example go far beyond Ukraine. “I’ve raised the example of Charlie Chaplin, how he used the weapon of information during the Second World War to fight against fascism,” he said. “You see, there were these artists who helped society, because they had a lot of admirers, and their influence was often stronger than artillery.”
Is it courage, or something else? No matter what you call it, Zelenskyy’s determination and resolve have changed the world for the better. “I am more responsible than I am brave,” Zelenskyy said. ” I just hate to let people down.”
For his fortitude and leadership, Time Magazine has declared Zelenskyy Person of the Year. And with his efforts, the Ukrainian people are hoping he will soon be declared victor of the war they never wanted.
I like to spend my time giving back with organizations that focus on mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs. I have supported after school programs that focus on entrepreneurial and global initiatives in local primary schools. I recently extended my mentoring to include students at Case Western Reserve University.