Volodymyr Zelensky and 'the spirit of Ukraine' named Time's 2022 'Person of the Year'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and “the spirit of Ukraine” have been named Time’s 2022 “Person of the Year,” the magazine announced Wednesday.
The 44-year-old leader became a symbol of Ukrainian resiliency and resistance in the weeks and months after Russia began bombing the former Soviet country, on Feb. 24
“This year’s choice was the most clear-cut in memory. Whether the battle for Ukraine fills one with hope or with fear, the world marched to Volodymyr Zelensky’s beat in 2022,” Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote.
“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.”
Contenders for this year’s Person of the Year included several people or entities who have made waves in U.S. politics this year, including outgoing Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision this summer, and possible 2024 presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Zelensky became a household name in 2022 following a meteoric rise from comedian to president in 2019 to global icon in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early this year. With his regularly broadcast messages to everyone from global leaders to regular people — from videos on Twitter to a remote appearance at the Grammys — Zelensky defied Western expectations, holding Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv from Russian forces and inspiring earnest interest in a country that, as Felsenthal says, some people “might not be able to find on a map.”
Time’s cover story by Simon Shuster, who spent nine months reporting on Zelensky and the invasion while being granted “unparalleled access” to the presidential compound, features an exclusive interview with Zelensky on his private train en route to the newly liberated city of Kherson. During the interview, Zelensky described how the only way to defeat Russia is to convince the rest of the free world to pull Ukraine in the other direction toward sovereignty.
“I don’t want to weigh who has more tanks and armies. ... We are dealing with a powerful state that is pathologically unwilling to let Ukraine go,” Zelensky said. “They see the democracy and freedom of Ukraine as a question of their own survival.”
Reflecting on his time covering Zelensky, Shuster described how Russia’s invasion and the weight of Zelensky’s new role as a defender of democracy has changed the president.
“In April, less than two months into the invasion, Zelensky told me he had aged and changed ‘from all this wisdom that I never wanted,’” Shuster said. “Now, half a year later, the transformation was starker. Aides who once saw him as a lightweight now praise his toughness. Slights that might once have upset him now elicit no more than a shrug. Some of his allies miss the old Zelensky, the practical joker with the boyish smile. But they realize he needs to be different now, much harder and deaf to distractions, or else his country might not survive.”
Previous Time Persons of the Year include Elon Musk in 2021, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in 2020 and Donald Trump in 2016. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently leading the country’s military assault against Ukraine, was named Time Person of the Year in 2007.
Time also announced other accolades on Monday, including the Women of Iran as Heroes of the Year, actress Michelle Yeoh as Icon of the Year and country music artist Mickey Guyton as Breakthrough Artist of the Year.