‘We Know What It Means to Defend One’s Own State’: Ukraine President Zelensky’s Prophetic Words at the Kyiv Jewish Forum

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the third-annual Kyiv Jewish Forum, Dec. 15, 2021.

March 20, 2022

Last December, the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) was honored to host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the third-annual Kyiv Jewish Forum, which brought together top international leaders to discuss the most pressing issues facing Jewish communities across the globe and celebrate 30 years of official diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Israel.

In his address, President Zelensky reflected on Ukraine’s storied Jewish past and its close contemporary ties with Israel and the Jewish people as a whole.

“We seem to have known each other all our lives,” the 44-year-old Zelensky — Ukraine’s first Jewish president — remarked. “We are separated by thousands of kilometers and at the same time we are united by thousands of years of common history.”

Then, in prophetic words that resonate now more than ever, Zelensky declared, “We know what it means to defend one’s own state and land with weapons in hand, at the cost of our own lives. Both Ukrainians and Jews value freedom, and they work equally for the future of our states to become to our liking, and not the future which others want for us. Israel is often an example for Ukraine.”

The world has changed dramatically in just the three months since the Kyiv Jewish Forum. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — which began on Feb. 24 — has led to thousands of deaths and displaced millions of Ukrainians from their homes, turning them into refugees.

During this time of existential peril for his country, President Zelensky’s fearless and resolute leadership has transformed him into an iconic figure inspiring millions in all corners of the planet.

CAM is proud to stand with President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine as they fight to preserve their independence and national sovereignty.

Watch President Zelensky’s address at the Kyiv Jewish Forum below:

View CAM’s full statement on the war in Ukraine here.