Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy was born on January 25, 1978, in Kryvyi Rih, then part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, to Jewish parents. Oleksandr Zelenskyy, his father, is a professor and the chairman of the Department of Cybernetics and Computing Hardware at the Kryvyi Rih State University of Economics and Technology; his mother, Rymma Zelenska, was an engineer. Semyon (Simon) Ivanovych Zelenskyy, his grandpa, participated in the Red Army during World War II (in the 57th Guards Motor Rifle Division); Semyon’s father and three brothers were killed in the Holocaust. Zelenskyy spent four years before attending elementary school in the Mongolian city of Erdenet, where his father worked.
Career as a comedian
He joined his local KVN (comedy competition) team at the age of 17 and was quickly invited to join the united Ukrainian team “Zaporizhia-Kryvyi Rih-Transit,” which competed in the KVN’s Major League and won in 1997. In the same year, he founded and led the Kvartal 95 crew, which ultimately became the comedy group Kvartal 95. Kvartal 95 played in the Major League and KVN’s highest open Ukrainian league from 1998 to 2003. Team members spent a lot of time in Moscow and frequently toured post-Soviet countries.
Servant of the People is a political party founded in March 2018 by employees of Kvartal 95, a television production business that also produced the same-named television series.
In a March 2019 interview with Der Spiegel, Zelenskyy stated that he entered politics to restore public trust in politicians, that he wanted “to bring professional, decent people to power” and that he “would really like to change the mood and timbre of the political establishment, as much as possible.”
In roughly three to four months, Zelenskyy conducted a successful, nearly totally virtual presidential campaign to topple incumbent President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. Both the first round of elections on March 31 and the run-off election on April 21, 2019, were clearly won by Zelenskyy.