Ukrainians have been coming to Canada since the 1890s, and they now comprise more than 1.4 million people, or four per cent of Canada’s population. They hold a diversity of views on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the current situation back home.
On the eve of Zelenskyy’s first visit to Canada since the Russian invasion, New Canadian Media asked five Ukrainians who left the country at different times what they thought about Zelenskyy and his role in modern Ukrainian history.
Here are their assessments, in their own words.
Olga Samuylyk, 40, was born in Crimea and lived there until 2010 before emigrating to Israel. She moved to Nova Scotia in 2015, and five months later relocated to Ontario where she has been ever since.
What do you think about President Zelenskyy? – I was prejudiced towards him and did not treat him seriously after his career in show business. I cannot still evaluate his capacity as the head of the Ukrainian state as I have not lived in Ukraine since 2010 and have no visibility towards internal politics and Zelenskyy’s program. He is pleasant on the personal level though, and has become a symbol of freedom thanks to his charm, charisma and strong will.
Is he good at his job in light of the Russian invasion? – He is doing his job of being a symbol and the face of the country – and he is doing it well. He has put Ukraine on the map thanks to his bold style during his public speeches while addressing the Western governments in his plea for help. However, I cannot fully estimate the efficiency of his decisions in the context of the current situation as I don’t have full visibility (into) what is going on inside Ukraine.
Should he be elected for a second presidential term next spring? – He definitely deserves to run for the office again, but it is up to the people of Ukraine to decide if he is the leader they want to see for Ukraine. It is my understanding that there were quite a few controversial steps in the internal politics that Ukrainians were not happy about during Zelenskyy’s term.
What are your expectations of Zelenskyy; where should he lead Ukraine in the future? – (I) hope he learns the lessons of his predecessors and works towards true democracy, no corruption and peace for his country. I like that he is a man of principles, and I hope that he does not get blindsided by money and power in the future.
Anastasia Podsilonko, 35, and her sister moved from Ukraine to Canada in 2005. Now she lives in Montreal. The last time she visited her family in Ukraine was four years ago.
What do you think about President Zelenskyy? – Finally, someone who I trust can make a difference. Appreciate his fight against ridiculous corruption in Ukraine.
Is he good at his job in light of the Russian invasion? – Exceptionally good if you filter all the noise.
Should he be elected for a second presidential term next spring? – Absolutely!
What are your expectations of Zelenskyy; where should he lead Ukraine in the future? – Independence from Russia, fighting corruption. Strengthening Ukraine as a powerful country.
Elena Plotkina, 41, is a newcomer to Canada. She came this summer under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel program (CUAET), arriving in Vancouver from Odessa in July.
What do you think about President Zelenskyy? – To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Volodymyr Zelenskyy. But I think President Zelenskyy is a very strong man in very difficult circumstances. It is very difficult to say what kind of president he would have been in peacetime – he simply did not have the time and opportunity to show it. In my opinion, as a wartime president, he does a great job. He sets an example of resilience, strength and a positive outlook for the future. He has a very charismatic personality. He is very actively involved in both foreign and domestic policy. And this is important because, as sad as it is to admit, Ukraine has enough of its own problems besides the monstrous catastrophe that is happening due to the Russian invasion. I can’t say I’m sure he’s doing everything right, but he’s great just because he does it.
Is he good at his job in light of the Russian invasion? – (In) my opinion – yes, he is good. He is trying to protect his people, but at the same time – he doesn’t want to give up his land. He is asking for help, for weapons, for protection – let’s be realistic, without all of this Ukraine has no chance to fight for so long. Obviously he makes a mistake, maybe sometimes he is more spontaneous than rational. But I personally don’t know anyone in Ukrainian politics who could be better.
Should he be elected for a second presidential term next spring? – For me – definitely yes. Everyone in Ukraine now is just waiting for the one – for victory. And in my opinion, it is not very right now to be distracted by the election program, campaigning, debates between candidates. It’s just not the right time. If Ukraine wins before Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s presidential term, I think it would be correct to remember that during the debates he himself promised to be president for only one term, and then give way to a more experienced politician. Let’s give him a chance to fulfill this campaign promise.
What are your expectations of Zelenskyy; where should he lead Ukraine in the future? – If Zelenskyy will be president again, I think he should pay attention to corruption within the state. His European-oriented path – it is not for me to decide whether it is correct or not – obliges him to this. He must completely update the system, refresh it, and reconsider the vertical of power. And do not forget that Europe is good, but care must be taken to preserve the uniqueness and identity of the country, to strengthen it not as the younger sister of Europe – but as an equal partner. The world already knows President Zelenskyy – he is young, strong, handsome. And it will be very good if the world sees that he represents exactly the same young, strong and beautiful state.
Alina Maslova, 55, and her youngest son arrived in Ontario in May, 2022. They moved to Canada from Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. This city hosts the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy along with other Russian ground and air forces.
What do you think about President Zelenskyy? – (He is) a random person in the place of the President of Ukraine, a “talking head” (who) depends on external control. I am ashamed of him, and of his voters, from the very beginning, after the elections. I think that he was “set up” by Americans to lull Russia’s vigilance and delay time for something important.
Is he good at his job in light of the Russian invasion? – No. The fact that Ukraine resists Russia is not at all his merit. Much is done in spite of his actions, and not because of them. I am sure that he did not escape from Ukraine only because pro-Ukrainian citizens are keeping him there under surveillance.
Should he be elected for a second presidential term next spring? – No, but most likely he will be elected again.
What are your expectations of Zelenskyy; where should he lead Ukraine in the future? – I hope the American and European puppeteers will keep him in a pro-Western direction. He himself hardly has the ability to do this and generally has a clear position on any issue.
Yulia Horobets, 55, moved to British Columbia from Kharkiv, Ukraine this May. She now lives in Victoria.
What do you think about President Zelenskyy? – I didn’t vote for Zelenskyy. I have never believed in peace with Russia. I have never believed that “ceasing the fire” is what brings us peace with Russia.
Is he good at his job in light of the Russian invasion? – From my point of view, Zelenskyy didn’t have (the) experience and expertise to take over the country in the state of (the) Russian invasion. He made a huge mistake when he was warned by the CIA about what was coming and ignored it. But now, I think he is doing his job quite well.
Should he be elected for a second presidential term next spring? – I don’t think any elections are possible now, when a lot of people are fighting and many are abroad. I don’t believe we must spend money on that now.
What are your expectations of Zelenskyy; where should he lead Ukraine in the future? – Though I was strongly against Zelenskyy being elected, and I still believe some serious mistakes could (have been) avoided, today he is doing everything in his power to lead Ukraine through this tragedy.