“I have always considered myself an American, a proud American… but today I have never been more proud to be a Ukrainian.”
Ukrainian-born actress, Mila Kunis, and her husband, Ashton Kutcher, raised over $30 million to help Ukraine as the Russian invasion continues.
Kunis was born in Chernivtsi, Ukraine. She immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years-old and was raised Jewish.
Here’s everything we know about her Jewish Ukrainian identity:
She is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors
Milena Markovna Kunis was born on August 14, 1983 in Chernivtsi, a city in the Ukrainian SSR of the Soviet Union — now Ukraine.
Growing up under Communist rule, Kunis had to hide her Judaism. (Read more on why Jewish identity “didn’t exist” in the Soviet Union.)
“We were raised with: you’re Jewish, just don’t talk about it,” she said.
Despite the circumstances, her parents made sure that she was raised knowing who she was and the price that her family had paid during World War II, Kunis told The Independent UK.
“My grandparents were in the Holocaust (they survived, but most of other relatives weren’t as lucky), and I’m very much part of that story,” she said.
She was raised Jewish
“My parents raised me to know I was Jewish. You know who you are inside,” said Kunis in an interview.
“I’m pretty Jewish .. I go ‘oy’ and people are like, ‘oh, you’re very Jewish … When I’m in New York, I become super-Jew.”
She recalled seeing antisemitic graffiti in her school in Chernivtsi — although antisemitism was not the only reason her parents decided to leave, it certainly was a contributing factor.
“My parents wanted us to have a future, and at that point…there really was no future,” she said.
Most people “don’t believe” she’s Jewish
“Most people don’t even know, and most people don’t believe it [when I tell them],” Kunis said. “It’s the strangest thing.”
“I’m trying to convince people I’m Jewish half the time. Sometimes they’re like, ‘Ha? Are you sure?’ They don’t give up and it gets to a point where I’m not going to even discuss it.”
She’s married to Ashton Kutcher
Kunis met Ashton Kutcher in 1998 on the set of That 70’s Show, although the pair didn’t start dating until 2012. They married in July of 2015 and have two children: Wyatt, 7, and Dimitri, 5.
Kutcher grew up Roman Catholic but became interested in Judaism later in life.
“I married a pseudo-convert,” Kunis said in 2018. “He fell in love with the Jewish religion later in life, it had nothing to do with me.”
Despite Kutcher’s passion for Judaism and Kabbalah, he never felt the need to convert, Kunis explained.
“He just doesn’t feel the need… He speaks Hebrew, he reads Hebrew, he’s read the Torah a million times,” she said. “He taught me everything I never knew.”
Kutcher has visited Israel and spent time at Kabbalah centers.
“Israel is near and dear to my heart,” he said while visiting in 2013. “Coming to Israel is sort of coming back to the source of creation – trying to get closer to that. And as a creative person, going to the source of creation is really inspiring. And this place has been really inspiring for me – not only on a spiritual level, but also on an artistic and creative level.”
Kunis also has “lots of family” in Israel, she said.
They observe Shabbat
“On Friday night, we’re all gonna sit down, and we’re going to look each other in the eye, and say I love you, and [ask] what did you do this week, just reconnect for a minute. Like, that’s the long haul of it.”
The Kunis-Kutcher household observes Shabbat in their own way, Kunis said in 2018.
“I love the idea of — regardless of where we are in the world, regardless of what we’re doing, on Friday night, we take a minute to just acknowledge one another,” she said, “to acknowledge our children, to acknowledge our family, say I love you, apologize for all the dumb shit that we did, and move on.”
Their Shabbat is mainly about spending time together.
“Our kids are going to get older, and they’re not gonna want to spend time with us,” she said. “So that, to me, was like — Friday night, we’re all going to get together, and we’re all just going to talk. And we’re gonna talk about the week.”
Kunis acknowledged that she is not religious at all.
“I’m not religious, at all, but Ashton is,” she said. So, when they started dating, she told him: “Listen buddy, I love you, so very much, let’s find a happy medium here.”
Kunis recites the blessing over the candles and her children know all the blessings in Hebrew, she said.
“You say a nice little prayer, you say a prayer for your children, you say a prayer…for the bread, we do a couple blessings, it’s literally minutes long, and then we just apologize for whatever we did that week that upset one another.”
Reconnecting with her Ukrainian identity
Although Kunis visited her Ukrainian hometown in 2017, it wasn’t until Russia’s most recent invasion of Ukraine that Kunis felt an intense emotional connection to that part of her identity.
In early March, Kunis and Kutcher used Instagram to launch their “Stand With Ukraine” crowdfunding campaign.
“Today I am a proud Ukrainian,” Kunis wrote in the GoFundMe campaign description.
“Ukrainians are proud and brave people who deserve our help in their time of need. This unjust attack on Ukraine and humanity at large is devastating and the Ukrainian people need our support. Our family is starting this fund to help provide immediate support.”
The couple said they would match donations up to $3 million dollars. The charities they are partnering with are Flexport.org and Airbnb.org, which, they said, are “two organizations who are actively on the ground providing immediate help to those who need it most.”
Ukraine’s President, Volodomyr Zelensky, thanked Kunis and Kutcher for their efforts over Twitter.
“.@aplusk & Mila Kunis were among the first to respond to our grief. They have already raised $35 million & are sending it to @flexport & @Airbnb to help [Ukrainian] refugees.”
“Grateful for their support. Impressed by their determination,” he added alongside a photo of a video chat he had with Kunis and Kutcher on a laptop. “They inspire the world. #StandWithUkraine.”
In a message about reaching their goal on Thursday, Kutcher and Kunis wrote on his Instagram page, “While this is far from a solution for the problem, our collective effort will provide a softer landing for so many people as they forge ahead into their future of uncertainty. Our work is not done.”
Originally Published Mar 25, 2022 12:00AM EDT