Ukraine’s Hero in Chief  

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Their bravery inspires.

As I sit safely in the cozy office in my home writing this column, the people of Ukraine are greeting Putin’s massive military invasion with incredible defiance and courage.

Their president, Volodymyr Zelensky, reportedly rejected an offer to evacuate to safety in the U.S. — despite reports that Putin hired mercenaries to assassinate him.

His response: “I need ammo, not a ride.”

Zelensky’s story reads like a Hollywood screenplay.

He was born to Jewish parents in the Russian-speaking industrial city of Kryvyi Rih.

He earned a law degree but never worked in the legal world, because, at 17, he and his friends created a comedy troupe that became very successful in Ukraine.

Zelensky played a zany and silly character in many sketches. He acted in movies before creating a TV show, “Servant of the People,” in 2015 in which he plays a history teacher who rails against government corruption.

Without his knowledge, one of his students records one of his rants and releases it on social media. The recording goes viral and the teacher is elected president of Ukraine by a people hungry for freedom and a functioning democracy.

Zelensky’s real-life story followed a similar vein.

In 2018 his television company established a political party also named “Servant of the People.” In 2019, running as an anti-corruption and anti-establishment candidate, he won the presidential election in a landslide.

Much like the humble, everyman character he played on TV, he stumbled some early in his presidency.

The New York Times says he “was often derided as a comic turned unlikely politician” but has emerged as the “leader Ukraine did not know it needed.”

“Mr. Zelensky’s decision to remain in the capital, Kyiv, while it’s under Russian attack — and his family’s decision to stay in Ukraine — has moved many, particularly in contrast to the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul as soon as the Taliban were on the outskirts, demoralizing what was left of the Afghan army,” reports the Times.

At 44, his heroic leadership is inspiring his people to fight for the freedom, independence and democracy they clearly hunger for.

Acts of courage and defiance are happening throughout Ukraine.

According to BuzzFeed News:

– A group of border guards who defied a Russian warship order were captured or killed.

– A military unit took on 34 Russian attack helicopters and dozens of paratroopers during a battle for a key airport.

– A Ukrainian soldier rigged a bridge to blow up in order to stop a Russian advance on Kyiv and sacrificed his life to ensure the blast was successful.

– Civilians laid down in front of rolling Russian tanks and berated occupying troops to their faces.

– Tens of thousands of civilian volunteers have taken up arms and are rushing to the frontlines.

The world marvels at the countless acts of courage that are taking place in Ukraine because the Ukraine people want to be free.

It makes you wonder: if your country was being invaded by a massive military force, would you put your life at risk to fight the aggressor?

I’d like to think I would have the incredible courage to stay and fight as Zelensky has.

Lucky for me, I live in a country in which such brave decisions were made by people long ago, so that I and millions of others can live in freedom — a freedom we must cherish and protect.

Zelensky reminds us all that the price of freedom is steep.

I am praying for him and his country.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]