Mila Kunis is opening up about her newfound love for her Ukrainian heritage in a conversation with Maria Shriver.
Speaking to Shriver as part of her interview series “Conversations Above the Noise,” with the full interview set to publish Sunday, Kunis said she “always felt like an American,” despite being born in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, and immigrating to the US with her family around the age of 8.
Reflecting on her peers’ perception of her growing up, Kunis said: “People were like, ‘Oh, you’re so Eastern European.’ I was like, ‘I’m so LA, what do you mean?’ Like, my whole life I was like, ‘I am LA through and through.’ ”
Kunis said her Ukrainian roots were so “irrelevant to me” when she was younger, she would tell people she was Russian.
“I’ve always been like, ‘I’m from Russia’ for a multitude of reasons. One of them being when I came to the States and I would tell people I’m from Ukraine, the first question I would get is, ‘Where is Ukraine?’ ” Kunis said. “And then I’d have to explain Ukraine and where it is on the map, and I was like, ‘Ugh, that’s exhausting.’ But if I was like, ‘I’m from Russia,’ people were like, ‘Oh, we know that country.’ … So I was like, ‘Great, I’ll just tell people I’m from Russia.’ ”
However, Kunis told Shriver that Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine was a jarring revelation for her.
“I can’t express or explain what came over me, but all of a sudden I genuinely was like, ‘Oh my God, I feel like a part of my heart just got ripped out,’ ” Kunis said of witnessing the invasion. “It was the weirdest feeling.”
Kunis said she now has a renewed sense of pride for her Ukrainian heritage, which is something she wants to pass on to her own children: daughter Wyatt, 7, and son Dimitri, 5.
“It doesn’t take away from who I am as a person, but it just adds an entire different layer,” Kunis said. “I turned to my kids and I was like, ‘You are half Ukrainian, half American.’ …And my kids were like, ‘Yeah mom, I get it.’ And I was like, ‘No, you are Ukrainian and American.’ I was like, ‘You’re half Iowa, half Ukraine,’ and they’re like, ‘OK, I get it.’ ”
And with the help of husband Ashton Kutcher, Kunis is devoting her philanthropic efforts to helping the people of Ukraine. The couple started a GoFundMe fundraiser on March 3 with the aim of raising $30 million in humanitarian relief for Ukraine.
Kunis and Kutcher have matched $3 million for the fundraiser, which will benefit freight forwarder Flexport and vacation rental company Airbnb, according to the couple. The two organizations will facilitate aid efforts by “transporting humanitarian aid to known NGOs on the ground” and “providing free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.”
“The people of Ukraine are strong and brave, but being strong and brave doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of support,” Kunis said in a video announcing the fundraiser.
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Kunis said she wants people to remain focused on the severity of what’s happening in Ukraine and how it could “affect the rest of the world economically and otherwise.”
“This issue can get incredibly catastrophic for the rest of the world, not just for that part of the world, and I don’t want people to lose sight of that,” Kunis told Shriver as the interview concluded.
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Contributor: Rasha Ali