“Here’s a guy who was basically considered to be a lightweight, out of his element, about to be crushed by a major superpower next door. And it didn’t happen,” says Andrew J. Polsky, a professor of political science at Hunter College in New York and author of a book on wartime U.S. presidents. “I think people really expected that he would flee ... and I think he surprised people by sharing the danger that they were sharing.”

To a watching world, his message is this, in both his words and his resolute, sometimes haggard appearance: He stands as a mirror to the suffering and spirit of his people, AP reports.

It appears to be getting through. Just days into the war engulfing his nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is drawing historical comparisons as an effective and stirring wartime communicator — yet with a distinctly modern touch inflected by the sensibilities of live television and the personal feel of social media.

His baby-faced complexion is now usually puffy and pasty, with a faint growth of beard. Suits and dress shirts have been replaced by olive military-style garb. His raspy voice betrays exhaustion. Together, these help form a narrative of personal courage, of David fighting mighty Goliath and refusing safe passage out of his homeland — embodied by his line that he needed “ammunition, not a ride.”

It’s all quite a development for a former TV actor and comedian who weeks ago was disdained in some corners as a political novice too eager to seek compromise with Moscow.

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