It’s not just cinematography that unites the iconic U.S. director Steven Spielberg and popular actress Mila Kunis. Both of them have Ukrainian roots and ancestry.
The world’s pop culture includes many celebrities that Ukraine can be proud of. Here’s a list of Hollywood movie stars and famous musicians connected with Ukraine.
Mila Kunis is, perhaps, one of the best-known Hollywood actresses born in Ukraine. The star of the Oscar-nominated drama “Black Swan,” Kunis was born in the western Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi, home to 262,000 people some 530 kilometers southwest of Kyiv, but moved to the U.S. at the age of 7.
In previous interviews, Kunis said that when she lived in Ukraine, her family had been forced to hide the fact that they were Jews, and that there had been anti-Semitic graffiti on the walls of her school. She also said that she came to the United States not knowing any English, and so it had been difficult for her to study at school.
However, Kunis overcame all her troubles and gained national prominence in 1998 when she got her first significant role in the TV series “That ‘70s Show.” She later starred in the comedy film “Extract,” that has brought her world-acclaim, as well as the movies “The Book of Eli,” “Oz the Great and Powerful,” “The Spy who Dumped Me,” and more.
Although Kunis, 37, is an American citizen, she still hasn’t lost touch with her Ukrainian roots. In August 2017, for instance, Kunis and her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, made a surprise visit to Chernivtsi. The couple spent a few hours in the city, walking across its downtown and taking selfies with people passing by.
It was the first time Kunis visited Chernivtsi since she emigrated to the U.S. in her early childhood.
One of the world’s most known film directors Steven Spielberg also has Ukrainian roots — the director says his ancestors emigrated to the U.S. from Odesa and Kamianets-Podilskyi.
A descendant of Ukrainian grandparents on both sides of his family, Spielberg says he became familiar with the Ukrainian culture growing up. “I felt I had a piece of Ukraine in my own home, especially around dinnertime,” Spielberg said during his earlier interviews.
Spielberg, 73, is now among the most known Americans of Ukrainian-Jewish descent. He is a two-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Director, as well as the highest-grossing film director nowadays. Drama “Schindler’s List,” and sci-fi “Jurassic Park” are among his films.
The director visited Ukraine for the first time in 2006, as he presented a documentary about the Holocaust called “Spell My Name.” Ukrainian media reports that after he got off the plane in Ukraine, Spielberg said he was home.
Ivanna Sakhno first came to Hollywood when she was 15. At that time, she wanted to become an actress in the English-speaking world.
Sakhno, now 22, pursued her dream in less than six years: Her name currently features on the credit reels of big-budget films with worldwide distribution like the sci-fi monster film “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” produced by Oscar-winning Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, or the action-comedy “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” where she worked alongside another Ukrainian actress, Mila Kunis.
Sakho has been surrounded by the cinema world since her early years. She was born in Kyiv to director Halyna Kuvivchak-Sakhno and cinematographer Anatolii Sakhno.
When she was 13, Sakhno went to Canada to study English and two years after moved to Los Angeles with her mother. She later received a scholarship at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute, which has many famous alumni including the U.S. actress Scarlett Johansson and actor Chris Evans.
Even though Sakhno currently lives in the United States, she occasionally visits her home country.
The star of popular TV series “The X Files” and “Californication” thought he had Russian roots all his adult years. But in 2014, Duchovny finally realized he was wrong.
His paternal grandfather was a Ukrainian who emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1920s from a small town called Berdychiv, some 180 kilometers from Kyiv.
“I grew up thinking I was Russian only to find recently that I’ve been Ukrainian all along. Never too late to change,” Duchovny wrote on Twitter in 2014.
The U. S. actress Vera Farmiga is mostly known for such films as a comedy-drama “Up in the Air,” — which brought her an Academy Awards nomination for the best-supporting actress— or horror movie “The Conjuring.”
What is less known about the actress is her roots: Farmiga comes from a family of Ukrainians and is extremely proud of her origin. Her father, Michael, left Ukraine at the age of seven. Her mother, also Ukrainian, was born in Germany, but later also moved to the U.S. where she has met Farmiga’s mother.
“I’m from New Jersey, from a big Ukrainian family,” Farmiga said during an interview with the U.S. TV host David Letterman. “We are very proud of our heritage. There we were always singing and dancing. We were involved in all things Ukrainian,” she adds.
As a child, Farmiga went to the Ukrainian Catholic school and was a professional Ukrainian folk dancer in her late teen years. Although Farmiga is a well-known actress in an English-speaking world, she still speaks Ukrainian freely and considers it to be her native language.
However, she is not the only one from the family choosing an acting career —- her sister Taissa is an actress as well, known for the TV-series “American Horror Story,” and comedy “Rules Don’t Apply.”
The U. S. actor, known for the drama “Rain Man” and comedy “Wag the Dog,” Dustin Hoffman found out his ancestors were Ukrainians only four years ago.
Hoffman’s grandparents on the father’s side emigrated to Chicago from the Ukrainian city of Bila Tserkva, home to 203,000 people some 80 kilometers from Kyiv, as they escaped anti-Semitic persecution from the Soviet authorities.
Hoffman, now 83, learned about his family history on the American TV show “Finding Your Roots” in March 2016.
As he found out the story of his ancestors, who were trying hard to save their lives and preserve their Ukrainian and Jewish heritage, Hoffman was unable to hold back the tears, saying that “they all survived for me to be here.”
Olga Kurylenko is the only “Bond girl” — a female character in the iconic movies about British Secret Service agent James Bond — who comes from Ukraine.
Kurylenko, 40, was born in the Ukrainian port city of Berdyansk, home to 113,000 people some 700 kilometers from Kyiv, but moved to Russia at the age of 15, to become a model. A year after, Kurylenko signed her first contract with a modeling agency in Paris and moved there.
In the following years, Kurylenko has appeared at the covers of popular fashion magazines including “Vogue” and “Elle.” But as an actress, Kurylenko became world-known only in 2007, when she starred in Xavier Gens’ action thriller “Hitman.”
Kurylenko is a famous actress who has starred in over 30 movies and she does not forget her Ukrainian roots: The last time she visited her hometown where some of her relatives still live was in 2018, as she spent several days there together with her son.
Even though there were some scandals in the media regarding Kurylenko and her attitude towards Ukraine, the actress always denies all the accusations and refuses to talk about politics, saying that she “loves Ukraine and its people.” Kurylenko currently lives in France.\
One of the world’s most famous musicians, Lenny Kravitz, is partly Ukrainian as well. His grandfather on his father’s side was a Ukrainian citizen, who lived in Kyiv and emigrated to the U.S.
Therefore, Kravitz’s father Sy Kravitz was a native of the Ukrainian-Jewish diaspora in New York, while his mother was of Bahamian descent.
In 2008, Kravitz came to Kyiv to perform a music show in the capital. He then tried to learn more about the homeland of his ancestors.
The rising star of the popular TV series “Vikings,” Canadian actress Katheryn Winnick also has Ukrainian roots. Her parents emigrated from Ukraine’s Zakarpattia region in the 1940s to escape from the persecution by the Soviet authorities. They first moved to Germany and later to Canada where Winnick was born.
Just like Farmiga, Winnick speaks Ukrainian freely. She also went to the Ukrainian school in Toronto and was a member of the Ukrainian scout organization Plast.
“I’m a very proud Ukrainian-Canadian,” Winnick said in a video as she congratulated Ukraine with its 25th anniversary of being an independent country. “Glory to Ukraine,” she added.
Although Winnick got the world-acclaim due to her role in “Vikings,” she had many roles before that. She starred in the popular U.S. TV series “Doctor House,” “C.S.I. Crime scene,” ‘’Bones” and more.
Bob Dylan is not just a legendary folk singer and songwriter known all over the world, he is also a holder of the Nobel Prize in literature.
And Dylan also has Ukrainian roots. The parents of his father, Anna Kirghiz and Zigman Zimmerman, emigrated to the U.S. from Odesa, the Black Sea port of 1 million people, in the early 1900s. They both were representatives of the local Ukrainian-Jewish community.
Just like the ancestors of Dustin Hoffman and Katheryn Winnick, they tried to escape the anti-Semitic movement.
After Dylan was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2017 for “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” the citizens of Odesa and members of the city’s Jewish community made a huge celebration honoring Dylan as “one more pride of Odesa.”
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter