Today, TIME names Volodymyr Zelensky and the Spirit of Ukraine as the 2022 Person of the Year.
The cover story, by TIME’s Simon Shuster who spent nine months reporting on the invasion, during which Zelensky and his team have granted him unparalleled access to work inside the presidential compound, features an exclusive interview with President Zelensky on his private train while on a trip to the newly liberated city of Kherson on Nov. 14.
Near Kherson, Shuster also reported from the bomb-proof military bunker, where Zelensky held a strategy session with officers in charge of the southern front.
In his letter to readers, TIME Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal writes, “This year’s choice was the most clear-cut in memory. Whether the battle for Ukraine fills one with hope or with fear, the world marched to Volodymyr Zelensky’s beat in 2022. In the weeks after Russian bombs began falling on Feb. 24, his decision not to flee Kyiv but to stay and rally support was fateful. From his first 40-second Instagram post on Feb. 25… Ukraine’s president was everywhere. His information offensive shifted the geopolitical weather system, setting off a wave of action that swept the globe. In a world that had come to be defined by its divisiveness, there was a coming together around this cause, around this country that some outside it might not be able to find on a map.”
Felsenthal continues, “The impact of this story on 2022 is the essence of what Person of the Year was designed to capture, the idea that fateful events on the global stage are shaped—for better and worse—by the talents, priorities, fears, and foibles of individual human beings… For proving that courage can be as contagious as fear, for stirring people and nations to come together in defense of freedom, for reminding the world of the fragility of democracy–and of peace, Volodymyr Zelensky and the spirit of Ukraine are TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year.”
In the cover story, TIME’s Simon Shuster reveals what he learned over nine months of reporting, during which Zelensky and his team have granted him unparalleled access to work inside the presidential compound: “In April, less than two months into the invasion, Zelensky told me he had aged and changed ‘from all this wisdom that I never wanted.’ Now, half a year later, the transformation was starker. Aides who once saw him as a lightweight now praise his toughness. Slights that might once have upset him now elicit no more than a shrug. Some of his allies miss the old Zelensky, the practical joker with the boyish smile. But they realize he needs to be different now, much harder and deaf to distractions, or else his country might not survive.”