Zelenskyy spoke at a Ukraine benefit auction organised by Sean Penn, where someone paid $1 million for a private John Legend concert

  • Zelenskyy addressed a wealthy Hollywood crowd at a Sean Penn-organized Ukraine fundraiser on Friday.
  • The auction saw someone pay out $1 million for a private performance from John Legend.
  • Zelenskyy drew on his past as an actor, emphasizing to the crowd that the war is far from fiction.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a speech at a Sean Penn-organized benefit night for Ukraine, which included a million-dollar auction bid on a private John Legend performance. 

Speaking via a pre-recorded video speech, Zelenskyy told the supporters of Penn’s CORE charity of the “peaceful cities and villages wiped off the face of the earth” in Ukraine. 

He described how Russian forces had destroyed “schools, hospitals, theaters, museums, entire streets and neighborhoods.” A video montage played, showing devastation in Ukraine as well as more optimistic scenes.

“All of this is not the scenery of a blockbuster about the apocalypse,” he told the audience at the Hollywood Palladium, who, per Variety, were largely wealthy media figures. “All of this is our reality.”

A video uploaded by Zelenskyy’s office shows the speech intercut with audience reactions:

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Continuing the Hollywood theme, Zelenskyy — a former TV and film actor — described how US stars accepted plaster Oscars during World War II, rather than metal ones, to address the wartime metal shortages. 

“It can fairly be said that this is a symbolic gesture that does not drastically affect the course of the war,” he said.

“But we cannot claim that the world would have defeated Nazism without a piece of metal. No. We do not know for sure. That is why we know that any help is valuable and important.”

Sean Penn speaking at a CORE fundraiser for Ukraine on Friday, June 10, 2022

Sean Penn speaking at a CORE fundraiser for Ukraine on Friday, June 10, 2022
President of Ukraine’s office

Former President Bill Clinton, Sharon Stone, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti were among attendees at the dinner event, which also featured a performance by John Legend, Variety reported. Legend played Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” on piano, according to the outlet. 

It is unclear how much was raised in the auction, but one bidder managed to spend $1 million on a private home performance from Legend, per Variety. 

Penn founded CORE, or Community Organized Relief Effort, in 2010 as part of an effort to bring relief following Haiti’s earthquake.

According to CORE’s website, the organization has had relief workers in Poland and Ukraine to aid Ukrainian refugees since the war broke out.

“CORE’s efforts will continue to adapt to support refugees and those in need who remain inside Ukraine as their needs evolve throughout the humanitarian crisis,” said a statement on the organization’s website.