President Zelensky’s love of Ukraine is on the coronary heart of ‘Servant of the Individuals’

In Kyiv, there’s a footbridge that glides over the Dnieper River. Inbuilt 1957, the Parkovy (a.ok.a. Park) Pedestrian Bridge connects Kyiv’s metropolis middle to Trukhaniv Island, a forested space crammed with recreation areas, seashores and resorts. The suspension bridge is simply 400 meters lengthy, lower than 15 p.c of the size of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Every evening, lights solid upon it paint the river in fairly colours.

I’ve by no means been to Kyiv. However nonetheless I preserve seeing reds and blues and greens dancing throughout the bridge’s girders in my thoughts, after catching it within the background of an episode of the Ukrainian TV present “Servant of the Individuals.”

Watching “Servant,” what’s most clear is Volodymyr Zelensky’s love for Ukraine and democracy. 

Whether or not you recognize it or not, you’ve heard about “Servant”; it’s the 2015-2018 TV present created by now-Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, by which he starred as a highschool instructor who’s unexpectedly made president of Ukraine after a video of him ranting about governmental corruption goes viral. “Who’s there to vote for?” he shouts at a pal after his college students are compelled to assemble voting cubicles. “These s—tsticks enter authorities, they usually loot and discuss s—t, discuss extra s—t and swindle. Similar s—t, totally different day. Nobody provides a s—t!” Netflix not too long ago launched the primary season in the USA; different seasons may be discovered on YouTube.

A lot has been made within the States of the seeming incongruity of a comic turning into a rustic’s president. But watching “Servant,” what’s most clear is Zelensky’s love for Ukraine and democracy. Out of moments of delightfully Chaplinesque innocence, like his President Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko being skilled on how you can ship his inaugural tackle with walnuts in his mouth, emerge passionate speeches confronting legislators, his cupboard, even his family members, with their very own corruption. “Right here I’m battling these vampires,” he tells his household after he discovers they’ve been utilizing his election to get cool stuff for themselves, “and at house I get the identical foul soup, simply reheated.”

And but the place he’s now? It’s the query that haunts me as I watch the present.

At instances figures from world political historical past abruptly seem to assist Holoborodko: Plutarch and Herodotus sit in his mattress debating the correct type of authorities whereas he sleeps; Che Guevara screams out the crimes which have been dedicated by every member of the cupboard. In a single notably affecting sequence, Abraham Lincoln urges Holoborodko to combat. “You might additionally free your folks,” Lincoln says. “However we don’t have slavery,” Holoborodko wonders.

Lincoln replies: “Do you suppose that thousands and thousands of Ukrainians who bust their backs working to the bone simply to feed the so-called elite, their homes, limousines and mansions, aren’t slaves?”

Watching “Servant of the Individuals,” I discover myself known as to gratitude, hope and mourning.

Even because the scenario Zelensky depicts is in some methods fairly particular to Ukraine—faceless Russian oligarchs lurk within the background all through the collection, plotting out how you can management him—his craving for a political system extra simply and aware of its folks resonates deeply. He’s very very similar to the Park Bridge, not terribly fancy and but stunning to behold.

And but the place he’s now? It’s the query that haunts me as I watch the present. The place is Zelensky holing up? What’s the standing of Viktor Saraykin, who performs his jowly, Homer Simpson-esque father Petro, or Nataliya Sumskaya, who performs his quietly loving mom Mariya? The place is Stanislav Boklan, who steals so many scenes as Holoborodko’s smooth-as-silk frenemy Prime Minister Yuriy Ivanovich Chuiko? The highschool historical past college students who name him to his greatest self—are they O.Ok.? Are their households?

I like to consider tv as an invite right into a religious expertise. There are the characters we are able to’t get sufficient of, the plot twists that transfer us and draw out our personal deeper questions and wishes. Generally merely being in one other world turns into a doorway into contemplation.

The opening credit for “Servant” are very very similar to that: Holoborodko bicycles by way of Kyiv on a sunny, blue-skied morning. He’s wearing a go well with and heading to work. And alongside the best way we see many alternative glimpses of Kyiv: a statue of a woman releasing pigeons; an enormous mural of a person with a reindeer; lengthy wooded lanes and downtown streets harking back to Paris or Melbourne; the river and its bridges. And the folks of Kyiv, too—moms with youngsters, mates goofing round, an older couple arm in arm. It’s a imaginative and prescient of the Ukraine that Holoborodko is preventing for, and Zelensky too. It’s a imaginative and prescient of the dominion, actually—atypical, peaceable, pretty.

However proper now it’s unimaginable to not see that sequence as a window right into a Ukraine that’s being destroyed earlier than our eyes. Russian missiles haven’t but hit the Park Pedestrian Bridge. Maybe some nights it nonetheless casts shimmering bars of yellow and blue upon the water. However for the way for much longer? Watching “Servant of the Individuals,” I discover myself known as to gratitude, hope and mourning.