Cultural crossroads. Do you know these famous people have Ukrainian roots?

Ukraine’s rich cultural legacy extends far beyond its borders, reaching into the very heart of Hollywood. Its influence is profound and often unexpected. These celebrities have made an impact on the world stage, all while carrying a piece of Ukrainian history with them. Discover how these artists’ roots have shaped their lives and contributed to their success.

Sylvester Stallone

An emblem of determination and strength in films. Known for his iconic roles in Rocky and Rambo, Stallone’s work ethic and resilience mirror the storied history of Ukraine’s own struggles and triumphs. His maternal ancestors were immigrants from Odessa and after moving to the USA they were forced to hide their Jewish roots. Sylvester and his mother later travelled to Ukraine and have publicly supported the country.

Mila Kunis

From the heart of Chernivtsi, Mila Kunis emigrated to the United States at a young age with her parents. Bursting onto the Hollywood scene in That ’70s Show, Kunis has since become a star in the industry, with performances that range from the comedic to dramatic, as seen in Black Swan. Her Ukrainian roots are an intrinsic part of her identity, one that she has spoken of with pride and affection, embodying the cultural richness of her motherland.

Vera Farmiga

A popular actress Vera Farmiga has captivated audiences with her performances in Up in the Air or The Conjuring series. The Ukrainian roots run deep, with her parents hailing from the culturally rich region of Western Ukraine. Vera’s career is as much a tribute to her talent as it is to her heritage. She reportedly often speaks Ukrainian at home and maintains some of the traditions that keep her connected to her ancestral homeland.

Milla Jovovich

She was born to a Serbian doctor and a Ukrainian actress in Kyiv. Milla Jovovich has become an action movie star thanks to her appearance in the Resident Evil franchise. However, her most iconic character remains the orange haired Leeloo in Fifth Element. Her colorful career as an actress and model is a testament to the versatility of the Ukrainian culture that she represents. 

Leonardo DiCaprio

You have probably seen Titanic, The Revenant, Wolf of the Wall Street or one of many more hits starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But did you know he has a lineage that traces back to the port city of Odessa? His grandmother Olena Smirnova was born there and left Ukraine during the October Revolution. DiCaprio’s Ukrainian heritage is a lesser-known part of his identity, yet he has repeatedly noted he is partly Odessian thanks to his grandma.

Olga Kurylenko

An actress from Berdyansk has graced the international film stage with various roles. From the Bond film Quantum of Solace to the sci-fi epic Oblivion, Kurylenko brings a touch of Ukrainian grace to her performances. She is also one of the most successful Ukrainian models, with appearances on the covers of fashion magazines such as Elle, Vouge, and Marie Claire.

Dustin Hoffman

With a career spanning over six decades, Dustin Hoffman is considered one of the greatest actors alive. Apart from six Golden Globe Awards, two Academy Awards, and one Emmy Award, he also has Ukrainian blood flowing through his veins. The Jewish history of his family was considered taboo for a long time and he allegedly did not discuss it with his relatives. However, since 2016 it is publicly known Hoffman’s paternal grandparents were immigrants from Bila Tserkva. 

Katheryn Winnick

An actress who shines brightly in the historical drama Vikings, where she channels the warrior spirit into her portrayal of Lagertha. Katheryn Winnick also appeared in flicks like Stand Up Guys alongside Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. She was born in Canada to Ukrainian immigrant parents and is fluent in Ukrainian. The connection to her roots is profound, while she has been very supportive and vocal about the war on social media. 

Steven Spielberg

Spielberg’s cinematic genius has captivated audiences for decades. His family’s history, marked by the tribulations of Ukrainian Jews, has influenced some of his most poignant works, including Schindler’s List. He visited Ukraine for the first time in 2006 while presenting a holocaust documentary Spell Your Name in Kiev. All of his grandparents were born in towns like Kamianets-Podilskyi and Sudylkiv. Spielberg’s homage to his roots is a powerful reminder of the impact Ukrainian culture had worldwide.

Bob Dylan

Robert Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan is the musical embodiment of American folk culture. Yet his roots extend to the streets of Ukraine through his Jewish ancestry. His paternal grandparents, fleeing the oppressive clutches of the Russian Empire, found sanctuary in the United States. Dylan’s lyrical genius, which earned him a Nobel Prize in Literature, carries the weight of his family’s immigrant narrative.


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