December 8, 2022 9:42 PM EST

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky paid tribute to the freedom fighters of his country—and around the world—Thursday night at TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year reception in New York City.

After nearly 10 months of brutal conflict following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky has emerged as one of the most notable world leaders in his efforts to protect Ukraine’s independence. He is TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year.

Zelensky, appearing in a video message of the event, thanked the bravery of doctors, farmers, journalists, and human rights lawyers—as well as ordinary people who stepped up to help the war effort. He also thanked those who supported Ukraine in its fight for freedom.

“It is an honor for me to represent the struggle of Ukrainians and the spirit of Ukraine, the spirit of freedom that echoes in the souls of so many people around the world,” Zelensky said. “This is the free world spirit, and let’s do everything for our spirit to win.”

He added that the “stories of heroes who are fighting for independence are also your stories.”

The Ukranian president made a bold choice earlier this year when he decided to stay in Kyiv as tensions with Russia worsened and fight back with an information war that has kept Ukraine at the forefront of international news. “You have already seen the spirit of Ukraine on the covers of TIME Magazine,” Zelensky said. That spirit “united the world this year with the colors of the Ukrainian national flag and our people’s achievements,” he said.

Zelensky thanked everyone who stood in solidarity with Ukraine and who has helped keep the movement alive. “Slava Ukraini,” he said, or “Glory to Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian flag, a blue and yellow fixture that’s popped up all over the world since Russia’s invasion, adorned TIME’s Person of the Year cover featuring Zelensky.

“Whether the battle for Ukraine fills one with hope or with fear, Volodymyr Zelensky galvanized the world in a way we haven’t seen in decades,” TIME Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal said in his explanation for TIME’s Person of the Year choice.

Felsenthal saluted other noteworthy people at the reception: Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya; actor Liev Schreiber who organized fundraising to help Ukrainians after the war broke out, and TIME senior correspondent Simon Shuster, who has reported extensively from Ukraine and followed Zelensky closely.

Read the full text of Zelensky’s video message:

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