Mila Kunis
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Did You Know These Celebrities Have Ukrainian Roots?

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Mila Kunis
Rich Polk/Getty

Big Stars, Ukrainian Bios

With the world fixated on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a lot of people are thinking about this European country of over 43 million people for the first time. Plenty of celebrities, politicians, authors, and other notable figures are from Ukraine or have ties to the embattled nation. Some of them have even focused their efforts on giving back during the conflict, including actress Mila Kunis, who has raised millions for Ukrainians with husband Ashton Kutcher. Here are several notable folks who can trace some of their roots back to Ukraine.


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Mila Kunis
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Mila Kunis

The star of "That '70s Show" was born in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, and lived there until she was 7. The actress told the Los Angeles Times in a 2008 interview, "It was right at the fall [of the Soviet Union]. It was very communist, and my parents wanted my brother and me to have a future, and so they just dropped everything. They came with $250.” Kunis and her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, have raised over $34 million for temporary housing and humanitarian aid for Ukrainians and encouraged more than 65,000 additional donations.


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Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA)

Leonard Nimoy

We might always associate Leonard Nimoy with Vulcan blood, but he was born to two Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, in what is now known as Ukraine. His story of growing up the son of immigrants also became a children's book.


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Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan by Chris Hakkens (CC BY-SA)
Dustin Hoffman
Dustin Hoffman by Georges Biard (CC BY-SA)

Dustin Hoffman

The star of "The Graduate" and "Rain Man" is the grandchild of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, Ukraine. On the TV show "Finding Your Roots," Hoffman learned that his grandfather and great-grandfather were killed by Soviet secret police, and his great-grandmother spent five years in a Russian concentration camp before coming to the United States.


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Jack Palance
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Jack Palance

Born Volodymyr Palahniuk to Ukrainian immigrants, Palance served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and refused to accept an award sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Culture, saying, "I feel like I walked into the wrong room by mistake. I think that Russian film is interesting, but I have nothing to do with Russia or Russian film. My parents were born in Ukraine: I'm Ukrainian. I'm not Russian. So, excuse me, but I don't belong here. It's best if we leave."

Joseph Conrad
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Joseph Conrad

The "Lord Jim" and "Heart of Darkness" author was born in Ukraine and, despite being considered one of the greatest writers in the English language, didn't actually speak English fluently until he was in his 20s. 

Golda Meir
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Golda Meir

The "Iron Lady" of Israeli politics, Meir became only the third woman ever to become a prime minister and was one of 25 people to sign the Israeli Declaration of Independence. She was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, immigrating to America when she was 8.

Natalie Wood
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Natalie Wood

If her real name, Natalia Zakharenko, wasn't clue enough, Natalie Wood, though an American citizen, was the child of Ukrainians who immigrated to the U.S. Her family fled from Kharkiv and made several stops before finally making it to San Francisco.

Steven Spielberg
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Steven Spielberg

The Oscar-winning director had two grandfathers from Ukraine, and has never been dismissive of his heritage. The borscht-loving Spielberg reportedly said, when he visited Ukraine for the first time at age 59, "Finally, I'm home!"


Maksim Chmerkovskiy
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Maksim Chmerkovskiy

The "Dancing with the Stars" alum is not only Ukrainian, but has been in Kyiv during the conflict. He has been posting updates on social media, noting that "the whole country is being called to go to war."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The late Supreme Court justice has a Ukrainian connection through her parents. Her father, Nathan Bader, immigrated to New York from Odessa when he was just 13.

Sylvester Stallone
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Sylvester Stallone

While much has been made of Sly's New York roots, he also has a connection to Ukraine. Relatives on his maternal side lived in Odessa.

Alex Trebek
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Alex Trebek

While his mother was French-Canadian, the late "Jeopardy" host was also the son of George Edward Trebek, a chef who emigrated from Ukraine as a child.

Steven Tyler
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Steven Tyler

The Aerosmith lead singer said before a performance in Russia, "My grandmother is German, and my grandfather is Ukrainian. They met at a time when Ukraine and Russia were one country." 

David Duchovny
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David Duchovny

After "The X-Files" star Duchovny starred in a Russian beer commercial, some digging into his great-grandfather's paperwork found he hailed from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Duchovny went on to tweet, "I grew up thinking that I was Russian, but only now I realized that I have always been Ukrainian. It's never too late to change."

Lenny Kravitz
Rich Fury/Getty

Lenny Kravitz

Previously, the most interesting part of Lenny Kravitz's family background was his status as second cousin of Al Roker. But it turns out he also has a connection to Ukraine. His father, Sy Kravitz, has Ukrainian-Jewish ancestry.


Stan Getz
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Stan Getz

The late jazz saxophonist could count his paternal grandparents as Ukrainian. They emigrated from the Kyiv area to escape anti-Jewish pogroms, eventually making their way to London and then the U.S.


Michael Bolton
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Michael Bolton

In his memoir, "The Soul of It All: My Music, My Life," Bolton (born Bolotin) credits his Ukrainian heritage with his singing chops: "If my voice comes from farther back in my family history, there may have been a rocking cantor among my Ukrainian ancestors in Kiev.”

Leonard Bernstein
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Leonard Bernstein

Famed conductor Leonard Bernstein was known for his contributions to the American songbook, but both his parents were 'Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants from Rivne.

Danny Kaye
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Danny Kaye

Born David Daniel Kaminsky, the singer-dancer-actor  was the son of Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants — and their only son to be born in the United States. Kaye's two older brothers were born in Ukraine.

Jay Pritzker
Wikimedia Commons

Jay Pritzker

The wealthy entrepreneur who owned Ticketmaster before selling it to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was born in Chicago, but his parents came from Kyiv.

Max Levchin
Max Levchin by TechCrunch (CC BY)

Max Levchin

The PayPal co-founder was born in Kyiv and immigrated with his family to Chicago.

Mila Jovovich
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Mila Jovovich

The "Resident Evil" star has Serbian roots, but she was also born in Kyiv and immigrated to the U.S. at age 5.

Vera Farmiga
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Vera Farmiga

The American actress and director known for "The Conjuring" and "Up in the Air" is the child of Ukrainian parents. Considering herself to be "100% Ukrainian American," Farmiga didn't learn English until she started kindergarten at age 6.

Lee Strasberg
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Lee Strasberg

The famed method acting coach was born in Budaniv, then Budzanow and part of Austria-Hungary, but now part of Ukraine.

Isaac Stern
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Isaac Stern

The famed violinist was born in Kremenets, Ukraine, immigrating to San Francisco when he was only 14 months old.

David Copperfield
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David Copperfield

Born David Seth Kotkin in New Jersey, the Emmy-winning magician's paternal grandparents were Jewish emigrants from what was then the Soviet Union but is now Ukraine. 

Karina Smirnoff
Karina Smirnoff by Anthony Citrano (CC BY)

Karina Smirnoff

The professional ballroom dancer and "Dancing With the Stars" pro was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, when it was part of the Soviet Union. She was briefly engaged to fellow Ukrainian and "Dancing with the Stars" pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy.