Sean Penn, 62, gave one of his Academy Awards to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Nov. 8. The actor, who has two Oscars, including one for his role in the 2003 film Mystic River and another for his role in 2008’s Milk, sat down for a meeting with the leader during his second visit to Kyiv, Ukraine this year after the country went to war with Russia in Feb. A video of the memorable and touching moment was released by Ukraine’s presidential press-service shortly after it took place.
“This is for you,” Sean, who wore a white t-shirt and jeans, told Zelensky after he shook his hand, sat down, and pulled the Oscar out of a black bag. “It’s just a symbolic silly thing, but if I know this is here with you then I’ll feel better and stronger for the fight.” At first, the president refused to accept the statue, while he stated, “That is yours” and called it “a great honor,” but Sean insisted he keep it. “When you win, bring it back to Malibu. I’ll feel much better knowing a piece of me is here,” he said. Zelensky then said, “Okay” as he shook his hand again.
Zelensky, who, like Sean, was an actor before he became Ukraine’s president, was later seen proudly putting the Oscar on the mantelpiece in his presidential office. He also went on to present Sean with a Ukrainian Order of Merit to thank him “for his sincere support and significant contribution to the popularisation of Ukraine in the world.”