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8 surprising facts about Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet with Biden and address Congress on Wednesday.
Before entering politics and becoming president in 2019, Zelenskyy was a comedian and a TV star.
He won Ukraine's "Dancing With the Stars" and voiced Paddington Bear in the "Paddington" movies.
Zelenskyy studied law, but his career changed trajectories when he became involved with theater and comedy during college.
Zelenskyy earned a law degree in 2000 from Kyiv National Economic University, but he was active in theater and comedy during his studies, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. In 1997, his comedy troupe, Kvartal 95, appeared on the televised improvisational comedy competition KVN, and Zelenskyy went on to become a series regular.
He wrote and starred in several films produced by a production company he co-founded, Studio Kvartal 95.
In 2005, Zelenskyy made his film and screenwriting debut in a musical-comedy version of "The Three Musketeers," in which he played D'Artagnan. He went on to write and star in "No Love in the City," "Corporal vs. Napoleon," "8 First Dates," and "Love in Vegas.
He won Ukraine's version of "Dancing With the Stars" in 2006.
Twitter user @abughazalehkat shared a resurfaced compilation video from Ukraine's "Dancing With the Stars" competition in 2006 showing Zelenskyy dancing in a variety of styles and an array of costumes. He took first place with dance partner Olena Shoptenko.
Zelenskyy voiced Paddington in the Ukrainian versions of the animated children's films.
"Paddington" producer StudioCana confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that Zelenskyy voiced the lovable bear in both "Paddington" films.
He starred in a popular TV show in Ukraine called "Servant of the People," in which he played the president.
In the show, which aired from 2015 to 2019, Zelenskyy's character is an idealistic school teacher who goes on a viral tirade about government corruption and ends up becoming president.
In real life, he won the presidency a landslide victory with over 70% of the vote in April 2019.
Zelenskyy's show once made a joke about President Vladimir Putin that got it canceled in Russia.
Zelenskyy sparred with Putin long before the current military invasion, according to the Hulu documentary "Two Men at War" by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.
"Do you know, by the way, who else wears this watch?" a Hublot watch salesman asks Zelenskyy's character in a clip from "Servant of the People." "Putin," he adds.
"Who?" Zelenskyy asks. "Putin Hublot?"
"Yes," the salesman responds.
The pronunciation sounds like "Putin khuilo," a crude football and protest chant used by Ukrainians against Putin, according to the London Evening Standard. ABC News senior national correspondent Terry Morgan said the "off-color joke" caused the show to get canceled in Russia.
"In one episode, Zelenskyy makes a joke about Putin, kind of an off-color joke," he said. "And afterwards, that show was canceled in Russia. But it added a dimension of political satire, of addressing the problems in Ukraine through comedy. People loved it."
Zelenskyy is Jewish.
Zelenskyy spoke about his family's Jewish heritage and losses in the Holocaust at an event in Israel in January 2020 marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. His grandfather survived the Holocaust, but his grandfather's three brothers did not.
Insider's Sonam Sheth and John Haltiwanger wrote that Putin defied logic by justifying Russia's invasion of Ukraine by calling for the "de-Nazification" of a democratic country led by a Jewish president.
He and his wife, screenwriter Olena Zelenska, have two children.
Zelenskyy met Zelenska in college, where she switched from studying architecture to writing and became a screenwriter for his production company, according to Tatler.
They share two children, 18-year-old Aleksandra and 9-year-old Kiril.
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