The Platform

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, visiting Bucha.

In March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the British House of Commons. Zelensky stressed the common bond that the Ukrainian people share with the West. “We will not give up, and we will not lose,” Zelensky stated. “We will fight till the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost. We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.” Members all stood up to applaud Zelensky over his remarks. They could not help but react with tears in their eyes. One cannot help but draw a parallel between Zelensky and Winston Churchill.

During the midst of the final stages of the evacuation from Dunkirk on June 4, 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke to the House of Commons. Like Zelensky, Churchill also called upon his fellow countrymen to fight against an aggressor.

“We shall fight on the seas and oceans. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender,” Churchill said.

Both men exhibit the same amount of determination to succeed in defending their homeland until the bitter end. Zelensky and Churchill both confronted danger because they felt it was their moral obligation to do so as the leader of their respective countries. Both men didn’t flee, even if it meant the prospect of death. Churchill stayed in England to view the German bombing raids that were killing hundreds of his compatriots. Zelensky refuses to evacuate Ukraine even if there are attacks upon his country and he is reportedly the target of hit squads.

Both men are masters of the written word. Churchill had a background in writing while Zelensky uses social media. Both men conveyed the same message of never giving up. Across the world, people are realizing how words can impact a cause worth fighting for. Winston Churchill used his prolific writing capabilities to convey a message of hope and optimism to his compatriots. Zelensky expresses the theme of resistance through video conferences and televised speeches that are broadcast around the globe. They each sacrificed their own mental and physical well-being for something greater — their own people. By doing so, they showcased their innate capabilities of being not only a leader to their compatriots, but also to the world.

Winston Churchill and Volodymyr Zelensky both forged an image recognizable to millions. Zelensky has transformed himself into a symbol of resistance. Churchill used props to create a specific public image. The bowler hat, the cigar between two fingers, and a cane paired with a wool black coat made him instantly recognizable. His speeches were meticulously crafted to persuade the British people to have hope in the bleakest and darkest of times. It succeeded with Roy Jenkins, the Labor Cabinet Minister, who described that the speeches conveyed the atmosphere of the moment. He detailed that the speeches were “etched in the memory of many who were young at the time are old now. They were an inspiration for the nation and a catharsis for Churchill himself.”

Ludovic Kennedy, a Navy sailor remembered the June 4th speech, stating, “When we heard it, we knew in an instant, that everything would be all right.” The British people were reassured that Churchill possessed the capabilities to lead the country into victory against Hitler’s Germany. They felt a sense of relief when they heard Churchill’s words which seemed to soothe their anxieties.

Likewise, Zelensky is echoing the words of the former prime minister. He displays a message of optimism directed toward his people. Ukrainians are watching Zelensky’s speeches on their phones, computers, and televisions with the same anxiety and worry that the British people once felt. Despite the bombings and killings within their cities, Ukrainians possess the same amount of hope that the British people felt during the darkest hours of the Second World War.

Winston Churchill and Volodymyr Zelensky are the embodiment of what true leadership looks like. Both men put their own personal lives on hold to be a comfort to their people. They inspired those who were despaired to have hope even when it seemed impossible. They put their lives on the line to make the ultimate sacrifice. Zelensky displays the same amount of courage, intelligence, and calmness that Churchill used to guide his people into a better future. Historians will look upon Zelensky in decades to come and will say this was his finest moment.

Sierra Francese is a high school student in New Jersey. Her interests include world events, history and sociology.