Olena Zelenska and Oleksandra Matviichuk are among TIME 100

April 13,2023 1300
Olena Zelenska and Oleksandra Matviichuk are among TIME 100

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska and human-rights lawyer Oleksandra Matviichuk have appeared on the list of this year’s TIME 100 most influential people in the world.

Zelenska tops the category of Leaders, which also includes Nobel laureate Matviichuk, where they find themselves in the company of U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and other prominent figures.

Maxim Dondyuk for TIME

“A writer who worked behind the scenes, she never asked for a spotlight. A mother of two, she never asked to become the heart of a nation at war,” U.S. First Lady Jill Biden presents her Ukrainian counterpart in the magazine.

“Olena Zelenska didn’t expect to become a warrior for the people of Ukraine, but she has answered this call with selfless courage.

“I met the First Lady last Mother’s Day in a small town near the edge of her country, just a few months after Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression began. Instinctively, we embraced—two mothers, two nations, coming together for peace. In the strain of her smile, I could see the weight she carried: the sleep lost to the percussion of falling bombs, the tales of atrocities that she would never forget. In her eyes, however, was the fierce determination and dignity that has defined her people.

“She could take her family and flee. What mother would blame her? Yet, she stays. She stays because freedom and democracy deserve defenders. She stays to show the world that heart and hope can make even the largest tyrant seem small. She stays for her children—for their future, and the future of all Ukrainians.

“Olena Zelenska is a mother. Protector. The pride of her nation. A beacon of hope for the people she loves.”

John Thys—AFP/Getty Images

Oleksandra Matviichuk is presented by Hillary Clinton, former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State who served as the First Lady of the United States from 1993 until 2001:

“A renowned Ukrainian human-rights lawyer at just 39 years old, Oleksandra Matviichuk has devoted her life to protecting democracy. Oleksandra and her team at the Center for Civil Liberties—a human-rights organization based in Kyiv—have strived to make Ukraine more democratic and document Russia’s war crimes against civilians. Last year, she jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize—the first ever awarded to a Ukrainian citizen or organization. Violence against civilians is a crime against society, democracy, and humanity. Yet it is too often perpetrated with impunity, particularly against women and girls. That’s why the work that Oleksandra and her organization are doing is so urgent and important. By documenting Russia’s atrocities so perpetrators can face prosecution, she is proof that women are not just victims of war; they can be agents of peace and justice.”

Last year, Time put three Ukrainians on its list of 100 most influential people: President Volodymyr Zelensky and Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhny among the Leaders and Ukrainska Pravda‘s Chief Editor Sevgil Musaieva among the Innovators.

TIME 100 was first published in 1999 and has become annual since 2004. Appearing on the list is considered an honor.

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