Talented statesmen, European queens, designers, artists, actors, and dancers... Ukraine has given the world many well-known names, although not all of them are universally recognized as our own. This is the result of a prolonged occupation by an aggressor currently attempting to subjugate us once again. Russia often appropriates the fame of well-known Ukrainians, even if they were born and raised abroad, in the families of emigrants from various waves. Even Kyiv princes and princesses are sometimes suddenly claimed by Russia, even though this state did not exist back then - those territories were inhabited by semi-wild tribes. So, this collection of famous Ukrainians is not just about our memory, but to some extent, about restoring historical justice.
Princes and Queens
Volodymyr the Great - Grand Prince of Kyiv
He changed the history of Ukraine-Rus, and laid the foundations of the state's might. He was a pagan who embraced Christianity, thereby determining the civilizational path of Rus. He had many military campaigns to his credit, expanding territories and putting in significant effort to transform them into a powerful medieval state - the largest in contemporary Europe.
Volodymyr implemented an administrative reform by granting rule over various principalities to his 12 sons, which contributed to the unity and strength of the state. He introduced coin circulation, featuring the emblem of a Trident (Trident), which is now Ukraine's national emblem. He developed cities, repelled the Pecheneg raids, strengthened borders with a system of ramparts called Zmii Valy (Snake's Ditches), and constructed the grand Desyatynna Church.
Prince Yasne Sonechko (Bright Sun), as he was known among the people, was the illegitimate son of Sviatoslav, the son of the legendary Princess Olha. His mother was a Polian noblewoman, a representative of a prominent Kyivan family who played the role of a key keeper at the court. Thus, he was Ukrainian by blood, not just by birthplace and rule. Despite the illegitimacy of his birth, Volodymyr managed to claim his right to the throne and become a true statesman and the people's favorite, earning him the nickname Yasne Sonechko (Bright Sun).
Russia persistently tries to appropriate the Kyivan prince for itself. In particular, not long before the start of the full-scale war, they even erected another monument there - a monument to Volodymyr the Great. This new monument is meant to prove that the Russian prince has a connection to places that didn't exist on the map during his time when he was successfully rebuilding the Old Rus state.
Anna Yaroslavna - Queen of France
Anna, the daughter of Yaroslav the Wise, the son of Volodymyr, during whose rule Rus reached its greatest prosperity.
Yaroslav is called the "Father-in-law of Europe" because one of his main diplomatic approaches was to arrange advantageous marriages.
Anna of Kyiv, through her father's efforts, married Henry I and became the Queen of France. It is said that Anna's first impressions of the king and the French court were not very favorable. The king himself was illiterate and instead of signing his name, he made a cross.
Intelligent and well-educated, knowing many languages and being a highly learned woman, Anna quickly became an important figure in the political life of France. King Henry I made her his co-regent, and she co-signed important political documents with him. This was a unique situation for the time. In addition, Anna was the only woman in Europe who corresponded with Pope Nicholas II. This was a sensation in those times.
The Kyivan princess brought a part of her father's library to France, introduced literacy at the French court, and established schools. Her son, Philip, became the next king of France after Henry's death. Anna remained influential and assisted her son in solidifying his position on the throne.
Our princess became the founder of at least two European dynasties - the Bourbons and the Valois, and her blood flows in the veins of the British Tudor dynasty.
Elizaveta Yaroslavna - Queen of Denmark and Norway
There is significantly less information available about the eldest daughter of Yaroslav, Elizaveta. Russian chronicles do not mention her. However, a beautiful story about her betrothal to Harald, the Norwegian king, and their marriage is found in Scandinavian sagas. From these sources, it is known that Harald Hardrada made considerable efforts to win the hand and heart of Elizaveta, whom the Normans called Ellisif.
She became the Queen of Norway after her husband managed to claim his right to the throne. Historians report that after some time, Harald Hardrada took a second wife. His passionate love for Ellisif did not last his entire life despite the initial infatuation.
After he died in battle, Elizaveta, according to one version, remarried. She married the Danish King Sweyn II Estridsson, with whom Harald had been fighting for the Danish throne for about 20 years. Although he never became the king of Denmark, his widow, our princess, managed to become the queen of this country.
Designers and Programmers
From ancient times, let's move to much more recent times - the era of scientific and technological progress, when Ukrainians managed to play a significant role.
Igor Sikorsky - World-renowned Aircraft Designer
Igor Sikorsky was a designer of heavy multi-engine aircraft, the first bomber, the passenger aircraft "Ilya Muromets," transatlantic seaplanes, and single-rotor helicopters. He was born in Kyiv, in the family of the well-known psychiatrist Ivan Sikorsky, a medical doctor and public figure. He graduated from a Kyiv gymnasium and studied at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, which now bears his name.
Then, as often happened in empires, he went to work in Russia, where there were more opportunities for professional development. His passion was aviation construction, and he accomplished a lot. His bombers played a significant role in World War I, and by the beginning of the Bolshevik revolution, he had created about 25 basic models of airplanes.
Igor strongly opposed the Bolshevik revolution, and in early 1918, he fled from the empire of evil. First to Great Britain, then to France, and eventually to the United States. On March 5, 1923, Sikorsky founded the aviation company Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation. He created 17 types of airplanes and 18 types of helicopters, most of which were produced in series. His company continues to operate successfully today, being part of the American military-industrial corporation Lockheed Martin - the world's largest defense contractor.
Sergei Korolev - The Ukrainian Who Sent a Human to Space
A renowned scientist and spacecraft designer, the pioneer of practical astronautics, was born in Zhytomyr. He aspired to be an aircraft designer, so he also moved to Russia, where he completed his education and began his career. However, in 1938, he was arrested for "anti-Soviet activity," and during his first interrogation by the NKVD, his jaw was broken. He then underwent trials in Stalin's Gulag, and was even sentenced to death, but fate spared his life.
Upon the initiative of the famous designer Tupolev, Korolev was released from the labor camp, and he immediately began developing a bomber. Working in the military-industrial complex was a condition for Sergei to pursue his idea of space exploration.
Yuri Gagarin before takeoff alongside Sergei Korolev
On October 4, 1957, for the first time in history, thanks to the famous Ukrainian, an artificial satellite was launched. A month later, the second satellite was launched into orbit, carrying the dog Laika on board. And on April 12, 1961, a human traveled into space.
Sergei Korolev's identity remained secret for a long time. The chief designer became known to the world only after his death. Currently, Russia insists that the Ukrainian scientist is actually Russian and prefers not to mention the torture and camp life of the famous Ukrainian. Such a position does not surprise anyone. However, we must remember the truth.
Among our contemporaries, it's worth mentioning the co-founder of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, a programmer of Ukrainian origin, born in Fastiv, Kyiv region, and the co-founder of PayPal and Vice President of Development at Google, Max Levchin, who was born and lived in Kyiv until he was 16 years old.
Kazimir Malevich - Avant-gardist with Worldwide Recognition
Malevich is one of the founders of new directions in abstract art - suprematism and cubo-futurism. He is most famous for his painting "Black Square." However, his legacy is much broader. After a period of abstraction, he returned to figuration. His body of work includes many paintings on peasant themes, depicting Ukrainian peasants.
Significantly, Malevich is the only artist who touched upon the topic of the Holodomor, creating a whole series of paintings. In particular, the canvas "Where There Is a Hammer and Sickle, There Is Death and Famine" depicts three figures with faces replaced by a sickle and hammer, a cross and a coffin.
Kazimir Malevich was born in Kyiv. He came from a family of ethnic Poles, but often indicated "Ukrainian" as his nationality. His childhood was spent in various places in Ukraine due to his father's job that required frequent moves.
His professional education began at the Kyiv Art School of Mykola Pymonenko, where he gained basic knowledge. He moved to Moscow at the age of 25, where he continued his studies.
He started learning Russian relatively late. He spoke Polish at home and Ukrainian outside of it. He always wrote his scientific works in Ukrainian since it was his native language.
Like Korolev, Malevich was also thrown into the clutches of the KGB, accused of espionage for Germany, but he withstood the ordeal. However, after these trials, he fell ill and died in 1935 in the arms of his young Ukrainian wife.
He is called a Pole by Poles, which is justified since he was an ethnic Pole, and by Russians, which is unjustified, but it reflects the imperial ambitions of a country that is accustomed to claiming all achievements of subjugated nations as its own.
Ivan Marchuk - Unique Artist and Modern Genius
Ivan Marchuk is a contemporary Ukrainian artist who made it onto the list of the 100 most outstanding geniuses of modern times according to The Daily Telegraph.
His unique style is called "pliontanism," which comes from the Ukrainian dialect word "pliontaty," meaning "to weave." Indeed, his paintings seem intricately woven worlds, created from the same threads as the Universe.
Marchuk's creativity was unofficially banned in the USSR for over 17 years. He was accused of undermining the very foundations of socialist realism. Marchuk was under the watchful eye of the KGB. Due to his inability to realize himself in his homeland, the artist fled abroad. He lived in Australia, Canada, and the USA for a while. However, in 2011, he returned to Ukraine.
Serge Lifar - Dancer Who Revived French Ballet
Kyivan Sergiy Lifar often emphasized his descent from an ancient Cossack family. He had vivid memories of his childhood visits to his grandfather, a wealthy landowner who kept yellowed Cossack documents with wax seals.
Sergiy dreamt of becoming a virtuoso pianist but suffered a hand injury in his youth during clashes with Bolsheviks. Unfortunately, he grew up in the turbulent times of the early 20th century, with its wars, revolutions, Ukraine's struggle for independence, and changes in power.
Unable to become a virtuoso musician, Sergiy decided to dedicate himself to ballet. Through a series of positive circumstances, he miraculously managed to leave for Paris in 1923. There, he began dancing in the theater of the Russian ballet master Diaghilev.
Sergiy's hard work and innate talent brought results. He became known as a "new legend." Later, Lifar was invited to play the role of Prometheus at the Paris Opera. After a triumphant performance that impressed the French audience, he was offered the position of leading the ballet company at the Grand Opera, in hopes that the talented Ukrainian could revive the glory of French ballet. The hopes were fulfilled. Lifar staged over 200 ballet productions at the Grand Opera, trained 11 ballet stars, founded the Choreography Institute at the Grand Opera, taught a course on the history and theory of dance at Sorbonne, became the rector of the University of Dance, a professor at the Higher School of Music, and the honorary president of the National Dance Council at UNESCO.
Among his friends were Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Coco Chanel.
Sergiy wanted to visit Ukraine, but the Soviet authorities denied him permission to tour. He only managed to visit Kyiv once as a private individual to pay his respects to his parents at Baikove Cemetery.
Sergiy never forgot that he was Ukrainian. When he received the Legion of Honor from Charles de Gaulle in Versailles, he refused French citizenship, stating: "I am sincerely grateful, Mr. President, for your proposal. But I have never been and will never be French, because I am Ukrainian, and my homeland is Ukraine." He wore an embroidered shirt at the ceremony. He requested that "Serge Lifar. From Kyiv" be inscribed on his tomb.
In his last days, Sergiy spent time in Lausanne, where there is now a monument of him.
Among the well-known contemporary actresses of Ukrainian descent, we proudly mention names such as Milla Jovovich, Vera Farmiga, and Mila Kunis. These actresses consistently support Ukraine and express their condolences to fellow countrymen and their homeland, more emphatically since the beginning of the war, highlighting their heritage.
Famous individuals of Ukrainian descent also include Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hoffman, Sylvester Stallone, and Leonardo DiCaprio (both have Odessa roots). Recently, Barbara Streisand also revealed her Ukrainian origins. She became an ambassador for United24 and received an embroidered shirt with a Ternopil ornament as a gift. She then announced that her grandparents are from the town of Berezhany in Ternopil region.
This list of well-known people of Ukrainian descent could go on and on.
Truly, it is crucial for all Ukrainians, no matter where they are, to remember, restore memory, and historical justice, to never forget who we are and to proudly acknowledge it.