The Atlantic Daily: The Performance of Volodymyr Zelensky’s Life

The Ukrainian president is modeling courage from the streets of Kyiv, via self-shot videos.

Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.


Today, as Russian forces rained rockets on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and edged closer to surrounding him in Kyiv, Volodymyr Zelensky urged NATO to create a no-fly zone over parts of his country and officially applied for Ukraine to join the European Union. Since Russia launched its invasion, Zelensky, who reportedly declined an offer by the United States to evacuate him from Kyiv, has been praised for his leadership, and his defiant videos from the streets of the capital have inspired people from around the world who have seen them on social media.

As my colleague Franklin Foer put it: “It is hard to think of another recent instance in which one human being has defied the collective expectations for his behavior and provided such an inspiring moment of service to the people, clarifying the terms of the conflict through his example.”

  • He is delivering the performance of his life. “Zelensky has been using videos, brief and self-shot, not only to document his continued presence in Kyiv,” Megan Garber writes, “but also to rally his constituents to stay with him, and to fight.”
  • He’s an inspiration to a West that’s lost touch with righteousness. “There can be something a little distasteful about Western onlookers (myself included) cheering on Ukrainians for a cause that our countries are not willing to join, a stance that risks raising the price of a peace that will be paid only with Ukrainian blood,” Tom McTague writes from London. “Nevertheless, it is possible to recognize this, to be inspired by what Zelensky represents, and then to be shamed by his example.”
  • He has given the world a Jewish hero. “In these days of war and uncertainty, the fact that a Jew has come to represent the fighting spirit of Ukraine provides its own kind of hope,” our senior editor Gal Beckerman writes.

Watch: Our writers Anne Applebaum and Tom Nichols joined our editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, to discuss how Russia’s invasion revitalized the West’s liberal order and where the conflict might go from here.

The rest of the news in three sentences:

(1) Three more states, including California, announced that they are dropping their mask requirement in schools next month.

(2) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released yet another damning report.

(3) New data show that the Pfizer COVID shot is less effective in children ages 5 to 11 than in older kids.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Read Warsan Shire’s poem “My Father, the Astronaut.”

A break from the news:

Why do we count babies’ ages in months?


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.