Before the current conflict in Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the country’s president, got his start as an actor playing the president on television. On Servant of the People, a comedy about a high school teacher who is thrust into the presidency, Zelenskyy became a star.

“Today I will start with long-awaited words, which I wish to announce with pride,” he said as the fictional TV president three years ago, “Finally, Ukraine is United… This is our victory.”

Launching his real-life political campaign shortly after, he later became the actual Ukrainian president in April 2019, just a month after the series finale aired. According to Ukraine’s Central Election Commission, Volodymyr Zelenskyy won with an impressive 73.2% of the vote.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 'Servant of the People,' a television comedy about a high-school teacher becoming president
Volodymyr Zelenskyy in ‘Servant of the People,’ a television comedy about a high-school teacher becoming president. Photo Credit: ‘Servant of the People’ / Kvartal 95, Netflix

As he stands up to Vladimir Putin’s invasion from Russia, Zelenskyy has become a war-time hero, rallying his citizens to fight and protect their home. However, there’s still a lot more to the Ukrainian President than meets the eye.

HE WAS ON ‘DANCING WITH THE STARS’

Volodymyr Zelenskyy not only appeared in 2006’s season of Dancing with the Stars in Ukraine, but he also won! Video of his dancing have since spread all over the Internet, as he busts into a groove with his dancing partner, Olena Shoptenko.

In one of the DWTS clips, he’s wearing a full, sparkly pink suit and dancing to “Blue Suede Shoes.” In another, he does an impression of silent film star Charlie Chaplin and Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther.

HE WAS THE VOICE OF PADDINGTON BEAR

In the Ukrainian dub of Paddington and Paddington 2, the live action films based on the lovable cartoon bear, comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy provided Paddington with his voice.

“Hello to my darling friends. I, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, will lend my voice to the wonderful, charismatic, friendly bear Paddington,” he said in one of the commercials for the film. “‘Paddington’ [is a film] you can go to see with your whole family, and everyone will enjoy it regardless of your age.”

HE VALUES FAMILY OVER FAME

In his inaugural address, the current Ukraine President expressed modesty, and told citizens not to hang his photos all around the city or put him up on a pedestal like other famous European leaders of the past.

“I really do not want my pictures in your offices, for the President is not an icon, an idol or a portrait,” he stated. “Hang your kids’ photos instead, and look at them each time you are making a decision.”

His inaugural speech, following a campaign to champion the “common man,” promised to be open and honest with his people.

“We will build the country of opportunities, one where all are equal before the law and where all the rules are honest and transparent, the same for everyone,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “and for that, we need people in power who will serve the people.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy in in Uzhgorod, Ukraine, a couple months after becoming President
Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Uzhgorod, Ukraine, a couple months after becoming President. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

HE IS JEWISH AND LOST FAMILY IN THE HOLOCAUST

In launching his invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Ukraine was a hotbed for Nazism, which many political analysts rebuffed since Zelenskyy was Jewish and still elected President.

“How can I be a Nazi? Explain it to my grandfather, who went through the entire war in the infantry of the Soviet army, and died a colonel in an independent Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said, addressing the Russian people hours before Putin’s televised declaration of war. “Could a people who lost more than 8 million lives in the battle against Nazism support Nazism?”

According to the Ukraine President, three of his grandfather’s brothers were also killed in the Holocaust.

“What are you fighting for and with whom?” Zelenskyy asked Russians hours before invasion. “Many of you have been to Ukraine. Many of you have family in Ukraine. Some have studied in Ukrainian universities. Some have been friends with Ukrainians. You know our character. You know our people. You know our principles. You know what we value. So listen to yourselves. Listen to reason.”