Zelensky’s life story is a record of maturing into a role no one expected a few months ago. From a famous comedian to the leader of a country that bravely stood up to Russian aggression. The president, who became a statesman and a symbol of the struggle for democratic values, is already admired and imitated by politicians all over the world.
“Zelenski” by Wojciech Rogacin – book cover
The premiere of Wojciech Rojasin’s biography of “Zelinska” will take place on May 18. Below we present excerpts from the book.
It’s New Year’s Eve 2018. People are having fun at parties or spending evenings at home watching entertainment programs on TV. There are only a few minutes left from midnight to the start of the new 2019 year in which the presidential elections will take place. After that, all Ukrainian television stations boycotted the program for a short, usually banal broadcast of the New Year’s wishes of the head of state.
Channel 1 + 1 also boycotted the program – the cabaret “Wieczorny Kwarta”. But here a big surprise awaits. To the surprise of viewers, Volodymyr Zelensky appeared on the screen instead of the president. It is he who delivers a short message to the viewers. He says not as a high-ranking man, but as an old acquaintance, not in a suit but in a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up:
– Dear friends, in a little while we will welcome the New Year and watch the rest of the Evening District.
It was a great surprise to ordinary Ukrainians and the dismay of the political class. Some considered it another joke of the famous cabaret player. Since the broadcast of the series “Servant of the Nation” he has been muttering that Zelensky – a Holoborodko film – may have presidential ambitions. In polls that were included as a potential candidate, he performed well, but then was not given a chance to win. Old political critics considered the nomination of Zelensky – an actor and a clown, as he was called contemptuously – a complete misunderstanding.
Many Ukrainians think the same.
– When it turned out that Zelensky was going to run, my place – in western Ukraine, where a more conservative part of society lives with a strong sense of Ukrainian patriotism – was greeted with a little sarcasm, with a sense of confusion in asking. People had the impression that someone had made a mistake, and wanted to compete in a category other than the one for which it was created – says Wojciech Jankowski, editor-in-chief of Nowy Kurier Galicyjski from Lviv.
However, as of the morning of January 1, 2019, when people woke up after a night of fun, the news of the day spread in Ukraine. And Zelensky has never been more serious about New Year’s Eve.
President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the front line in Donbass (December 6, 2021)
before the decision
Before deciding to declare his election, he had come a long way and faced many dilemmas.
In 2016, about a year after the premiere of the first season of “Servant of the People”, Zelenskiy was in Odessa. In the evening, the historic apartment houses and mansions of the coastal city are bathed in greenery and light, and street lamps create a magical atmosphere. There are many cozy restaurants near the port and the old town near the famous Potemkin Stairs. In one of them, a meeting took place that was destined to affect the entire future of Volodymyr Zelensky.
He was contacted by Andrej Bohdan, lawyer and representative of the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who owns the 1 + 1 TV station. For several years, Studio Kwartał 95 has been producing programs and films for this station, including the series “Servant of the Nation”. When Zelensky agreed with Kolomoisky on issues of contracts and the rules for cooperation with television, Bohdan had to take part in at least some conversations. It was he who persuaded Zelensky to run for the Dnipropetrovsk District Council a year ago. He also had experience working with several former leaders of Ukraine. He worked for various candidates in previous presidential and parliamentary campaigns. Now he was trying to persuade Zelensky to play a completely new role, not on the screen, but in life.
Andrej Bohdan recounted the course of that conversation in Odessa in a conversation with Gordon.
– I called Zelenskiy: “I have a case.”
– “I’m in Odessa. Come and we’ll talk,” he said.
They went to the restaurant. Bohdan, an old man who knows Ukrainian politics from the inside, suggested that Zelensky run for president.
With the series “Servant of the Nation,” I gave people hope. If you do not try it now, they will be disappointed: they will face another disappointment. If you don’t win, no one will blame you, but if you don’t even try, then yes. I will disappoint myself ”- said Bohdan. Zelensky took these words very seriously. “I think they affected him badly,” he said.
They talked for a long time. Bohdan explained to Zelensky that if he decided to run for president, he should have a back office, a political platform on whose behalf he would stand. Zelensky did not say “yes” or “no” at the time. He had to think about everything, and most of all to decide whether he wanted it for himself. will adapt. He was not a politician and had no relevant experience. He also had to discuss this issue with his wife and family first – determining what their future life would be like. What about the kids? He also had many conversations with colleagues and friends from Quarter 95. After all, the company is his business, and he is not only its co-owner, but also the face and friend of many actors of the troupe. If it starts, then what after the quarter? What’s next with them? At that time, in 2016, he had not yet decided to run.
Volodymyr and Olena Zelensky (2019)
However, after speaking to Bohdan, it was clear that the offer was serious and that there would be money for the campaign if needed.
Zelensky told his wife Olena about the conversation. They had a child about three years old at that time – the son of Kirill, and the teenage daughter of Alexander were at a difficult age.
I was completely against it, said Olena Zelenska later. – Everything will change, it will be very difficult for us.
Most of all, it was about the family. The husband, who is engaged in the show business, had very little time for her. Rehearsals, recordings, consultations, musical tours – children rarely saw him. During the election campaign and after a possible election victory, everything will become more complicated. Ołena also believed that Volodymyr, who had no political experience, would become an easy target for professional politicians, and that during a brutal campaign, buckets of laundry would spill over their families. Zelensky, who always said that he listens to his wife in the most important decisions in life, this time did not say that he was starting or that he was quitting. He also consulted his parents.
In an interview with Hromadske TV channel, Zelensky’s mother said that they persuaded her to run.
– Wow, you don’t need it at all – they said. – You don’t have to push yourself in this mud. On TV you can see it streaming. After that, there will only be continuous attacks.
Volodymyr listened to these tips, but in the following 2017, he had not yet fully decided whether to compete or not. Or at least he never told anyone about it. However, he began to act in such a way that the possibility of running was open all the time.