“It was right at the fall [of the Soviet Union],” Kunis, who has now started a fundraiser to support Ukrainian refugees, told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. “It was very communist, and my parents wanted my brother and me to have a future, and so they just dropped everything. They came with $250.”
Kunis was born in 1983 in the city of Chernivtsi in southwestern Ukraine to Mark and Elvira Kunis, respectively a mechanical engineer and a physics teacher.
Once in the US, her father “did odd jobs – painting houses, installing toilets and delivering pizza – while her mother worked in the back room of a Thrifty drugstore”, the LA Times reported.
Kunis has said she initially struggled to adapt to the US as a child. Her native language was Russian, and she didn’t speak English when her family emigrated.
“Ultimately, I adjusted fairly quickly and fairly well,” Kunis told the LA Times. “But it must have been hard, because I blocked out second grade completely. I have no recollection of it. I always talk to my mom and my grandma about it. It was because I cried every day. I didn’t understand the culture. I didn’t understand the people. I didn’t understand the language.”
She lated described the experience in an essay she wrote to get into college, urging the reader to “imagine being blind and deaf at age seven.”
“That’s kind of what it felt like moving to the States,” Kunis added in her conversation with the LA Times. “But I got over it pretty fast.”
Kunis took acting classes as a child and got her first television credit in 1994 in the soap opera Days of Our Lives. Appearances in programmes such as Baywatch and 7th Heaven followed, and in 1998 she joined the cast of That ‘70s Show. (Also starring in the series was Ashton Kutcher, whom Kunis married in 2015).
Kunis also forged a career on the film side, which has included roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Black Swan (2010), Friends with Benefits (2011), and The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018). She will play the lead role in the upcoming Netflix adaptation of Jessica Knoll’s bestselling novel Luckiest Girl Alive.
In a video released on Thursday, Kunis announced she and Kutcher had launched a fundraiser to support Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion of the country.
She aid she has always considered herself “a proud American – I love everything that this country has done for myself and my family, but today I have never been more proud to be a Ukrainian.”
“Ukrainians are proud and brave people who deserve our help in their time of need,” she wrote in a statement. “This unjust attack on Ukraine and humanity at large is devastating and the Ukrainian people need our support.”
Kunis and Kutcher will match donations to the newly created fund up to $3m.
“While we are witnessing the bravery of Ukrainians, we are also bearing witness to the unimaginable burden of those who have chosen safety,” Kunis added. “Countless amounts of people have left everything they know and love behind to seek refuge. With nothing but what they could carry, these Ukrainian refugees are in need of housing and supplies right away.”
Donations will go towards two organisations: Flexport.org, which coordinates shipments of supplies to refugees in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova; and Airbnb.org, an independent nonprofit which works with Airbnb to provide free, short-term housing to refugees fleeing Ukraine.