Mila Kunis opens up about her newfound love for her Ukrainian heritage in a conversation with Maria Shriver.
Speaking to Shriver as part of her “Conversations Above Noise” series of interviews, with the full interview scheduled for release on Sunday, Kunis said she “always felt like an American,” despite being born in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, and immigrating to the United States with her family around age 8.
Thinking about her peers’ perception of her upbringing, Kunis said: “People were like, ‘Oh, you’re a very Eastern European. I was like, ‘I’m L.A., what do you mean?’ Like, my whole life I’ve been like, ‘I’m all of L.A.’
Kunis said her Ukrainian roots were “unrelated to me” when she was younger, she would tell people she was Russian.
“I was always like, ‘I’m from Russia’ for a variety of reasons. One of them was when I come to the United States and tell people I’m from Ukraine, and the first question I would ask was, ‘Where is Ukraine?'” Kunis said. “And then I had to explain Ukraine and its place on the map, and I said, ‘Ah, that’s exhausting. But if I was like, “I’m from Russia,” people were like, “Oh, we know this country.” … So I was like, “Great, I’m just going to tell people I’m from Russia.”
However, Kunis told Shriver that Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine was a stark revelation to her.
“I can’t express or explain what happened to me,” Kunis said of watching the invasion, “but all of a sudden I honestly felt, ‘Oh my God, I feel like a part of my heart has just been ripped out.'” It was the strangest feeling.
Kunis said she now has a renewed sense of pride for her Ukrainian heritage, something she wants to pass on to her children: daughter Wyatt, 7, and son Dimitri, 5.
“It doesn’t detract from my identity as a person, but it does add a whole different layer,” Kunis said. “I turned to my kids and said, ‘You’re half Ukrainian, half American. …and my kids were like, “Yeah Mom, I got it.” And I said, No, you’re Ukrainian and American. I was like, “You’re half Iowa, half Ukraine,” and they’d say, “Well, I got it.”
With the help of her husband, Ashton Kutcher, Kunis is dedicated to helping the people of Ukraine. The couple started a GoFundMe fundraising drive on March 3 with the goal of raising $30 million in humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
Kunis and Kutcher have rewarded $3 million for the fundraising, which will benefit freight forwarder Flexport and vacation rental company Airbnb, according to the couple. The two organizations will facilitate aid efforts by “transferring humanitarian aid to well-known NGOs on the ground” and “providing free short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees who have fled Ukraine.”
“The people of Ukraine are strong and brave, but just because you are strong and brave does not mean you are not worthy of support,” Kunis said in a video announcing the fundraiser.
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Kunis said she wants people to stay focused on the seriousness of what is happening in Ukraine and how it could “affect the rest of the world economically and otherwise.”
“This problem could become incredibly catastrophic for the rest of the world, and not just for this part of the world, and I don’t want people to lose sight of that,” Kunis told Shriver The interview concluded.
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Contributing: Rasha Ali
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