Actor and filmmaker Ben Stiller marked World Refugee Day on Monday with a trip to Ukraine and Poland to meet with families displaced by war – and to discuss the plight of refugees with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In a video posted on Ukraine World’s Twitter page, Stiller was shown into a room where Zelenskyy was waiting. Stiller, who is also the U.N. refugee agency’s goodwill ambassador, wore a gigantic smile as he marched up to the president.
“This is a great honor for me. You’re my hero,” Stiller, who is also a goodwill ambassador of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Zelenskyy, who humbly brushed it off.
Stiller and UNHCR Ukrainian Rep. Karolina Lindholm Billing met with Zelenskyy after a visit to the occupied settlements of the Kyiv region, where Stiller got a close look at the ruined residential areas of Irpin and talked to people who survived the occupation.
“It’s one thing to see this destruction on TV or on social networks. Another thing is to see it all with your own eyes. That’s a lot more shocking,” Stiller said.
“What you saw in Irpin is definitely dreadful. But it is even worse to just imagine what is happening in the settlements that are still under temporary occupation in the east,” Zelenskyy responded.
Later in the day, Stiller issued a video statement about World Refugee Day and its importance in the humanitarian cause.
“Hey, I’m Ben Stiller and I’m here in the Ukraine. I’m meeting people who’ve been impacted by the war and hearing how it’s changed their lives. War and violence are devastating people all over the world. Nobody chooses to flee their home. Seeking safety is a right. And it needs to be upheld for every person.”
Since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, 2022 and the war that followed, more than 5 million Ukrainians have fled their county, and million more left their homes and sought safer shelter within the country. According to the U.N., 90% of the refugees are women or children.
“Families have been torn apart and the trauma of war will have a lasting impact on many of those forced to flee their homes,” the agency said in a statement.