Editor’s Note: This is the address to the nation that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy gave in parliament at the ceremony of his inauguration as the sixth president of Ukraine on May 20. It is also available here on the president’s official website.
After (my) victory in this election, my six-year-old son said, “Daddy, I was watching TV, they say Zelenskiy is the president. So it means I’m the president too, right?” At the moment it sounded like a child’s joke. But later I understood that it was the truth, because every one of us is the president now. Not only 73 percent of Ukrainians who voted for me — all 100 percent. It’s not mine, it’s our common victory. And it’s our common chance for which we take shared responsibility.
And now it wasn’t just me who took the oath. Each of us — each of us — put a hand on the Constitution, and each of us has sworn loyalty to Ukraine.
Imagine screaming headlines: “The president doesn’t pay taxes,” “The president was drunk and ran red lights,” “The president steals a little.”
But everybody does the same. Surely, you agree it’s a shame. And this is what I mean when I say that every one of us is the president.
Starting today, every one of us bears responsibility for Ukraine, which we will leave to our children. Each of us, in our own places, can do something for the development of Ukraine.
A European country starts with everyone. Yes, we have chosen a (political) direction to Europe, but Europe is not somewhere there, it’s here (points to his head). And when Europe is here (again points at his head), it will come to our country.
This is our shared dream. But we have shared pains, too. Each of us has died in the Donbas. Every day we lose one of us. And each of us is internally displaced; those who lost their own homes and those who, in turn, opened the doors of their homes, sharing this pain.
And each of us is a migrant worker. Those who didn’t manage to find their place at home but found earnings in a foreign country. Those who, fighting poverty, had to lose their dignity.
But we will overcome all of this, for each one of us is a Ukrainian.
We all are Ukrainians. There is no such thing as less of a Ukrainian or more of a Ukrainian, the right Ukrainian or the wrong Ukrainian. We all are Ukrainians. From Uzhhorod to Luhansk, from Chernihiv to Simferopol, in Lviv, Kharkiv, in Donetsk, Dnipro, and Odesa — we are all Ukrainians. We have to be united, and only then we are strong.
And today I address all the Ukrainians in the world. There are 65 million of us. Yes, don’t be surprised, there are 65 millions of us who have the Ukrainian roots. Ukrainians in Europe and Asia, North and South America, in Australia and Africa, I address every Ukrainian on the planet. We need you very much!
To everyone who is ready to build a new and successful Ukraine, I will happily give you Ukrainian citizenship. You should come to Ukraine as if you are coming home — not visiting as a guest. We are waiting for you. Don’t bring souvenirs from abroad, bring us your knowledge, experience, and values. All of this will help us start a new epoch.
Skeptics will say, “It’s a fantasy. It’s impossible.” But maybe this is just our national idea: to unite and do something that’s impossible, in spite of everything.
You remember the national football team of Iceland at the 2016 UEFA European Championship, when a dentist, a director, a pilot, a student, and a janitor fought to defend the dignity of their country? They did something nobody believed in. This is our way, too. We should become the Icelanders in football, the Israelis in defending our territory, the Japanese in technologies, the Swiss in the ability to live together despite all the differences.
But our very first task is to make the fire stop in the Donbas.
I was asked very often what exactly I am ready to do to stop the war. It’s a strange question. What are you ready to do, Ukrainians, for the lives of your relatives? What?
I assure you, for our heroes to stop dying, I am ready to do everything. I am certainly not afraid of difficult decisions, I am ready to lose my popularity, my ratings, and — if need be — I am ready to lose this post without hesitation in order to bring peace.
(Lawmakers stand and give Zelenskiy a long round of applause.)
But losing none of our territories by doing so. Never!
(MPs stand and give him another round of applause.)
History is unfair, it’s true. It wasn’t us who started this war, but it is us who will have to stop it.
And we are ready for a dialogue, but (switches to Russian) I am sure that the first step to start this dialogue is to return all the Ukrainian hostages.
Our next challenge is to return the lost territories (switches back to Ukrainian). Frankly, this phrase isn’t correct, for it’s impossible to lose something that is rightfully ours. Crimea and the Donbas — these are Ukrainian territories. But we lost not just territories there, we lost our people.
(Switches to Russian again) And today we must — I am sure they hear us — win back their minds. We have lost their minds. Over these years, the government hasn’t done anything so that they feel Ukrainians. They are not alien, they are ours, Ukrainians.
(“They understand Ukrainian!” Oleh Lyashko, leader of the Radical Party, shouts from the hall.)
They do, thank you very much. And “thank you” for continuing to separate our people, Mr. Lyashko.
We are all Ukrainians wherever we live. Ukrainian isn’t about the passport, it’s about what’s in the heart. I know this for sure from the fighters who defend Ukraine, our heroes — both Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking.
There cannot be a powerful army where those in power don’t respect the people who die for the country every day. I will do everything so that you feel respect: adequate and stable financial support, housing, vacations after completing combat missions, rest for you and your families. One doesn’t have to speak about NATO standards, one has to create these standards.
Of course, despite the war, there are many more woes, which make Ukrainians unhappy. There are shocking tariffs, humiliating salaries and pensions, prices that hurt and workplaces that don’t exist. There is the healthcare system, whose improvements are usually discussed by people who have never had to take their child to a public hospital. There are mythical Ukrainian roads, which are built only in someone’s fertile imagination.
Now let me — if I may — cite one American actor, who became a cool American president (Ronald Reagan): “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
I don’t understand our government, which is just throwing up its hands, saying, “We can do nothing.” It’s not true, you can. You can take a sheet of paper, a pen, and free up places for those who think about the next generations — not just about the next parliamentary election. I think that people will appreciate that.
Such selective applause… I speak from the nation, thank you very much.
My election proves: people are tired of experienced, systemic, inflated politicians, who for 28 years have created a country of opportunities… opportunities for kickbacks, money flows, corruption. We will build a country of other opportunities, where everyone is equal before the law, where there’s a level playing field. But before that, people who will serve the nation should come to power.
I would very much like for you to not have my portrait in your offices. No portraits! A president is not an icon, nor an idol. A president is not a portrait. Put photographs of your children there, instead. And before making any decision, look them in the eyes.
I can talk more. But Ukrainians want actions, not words. So, dear deputies, you yourselves set an inauguration date on Monday, a working day. I see it as a positive thing. It means there won’t be parties today — we will be working. So I ask you insistently to pass the law lifting parliamentary immunity, the law on illicit enrichment, the long-suffering electoral law, and adopt open party lists. And also, I ask you to dismiss the SBU (security agency) head, the general prosecutor, the defense minister.
This is not all you can do, but it’s enough for the beginning. You will have two months for this. Do this and hang medals on yourselves, and win points before the snap parliamentary election, for I dismiss the 8th Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada. Glory to Ukraine!
Dear nation, during my life, I was doing my best to make Ukrainians smile. I felt that it wasn’t just my job, it was my mission. In the next five years, I will be doing everything, Ukrainians, for you not to cry.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter