In honor of Women’s History Month, we continue to recognize the economic, cultural, political, and social contributions of influential immigrant and refugee women who’ve helped shape the vibrant tapestry of America. Today we salute award-winning actress and humanitarian, Mila Kunis.
In April 2022, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Mila Kunis took action to raise funds to support humanitarian and refugee efforts in her native country. Her ongoing campaign has raised over $37 million for relief supplies and free, short-term housing for affected families.
On August 14, 1983, Mila Kunis was born Milena Kunis in the former Ukrainian Socialist Republic, which was then under Soviet rule. She’s spoken of how difficult and stifling growing up within the Soviet Union was for her family. Russian was considered the country’s primary language, and the government suppressed her family’s Jewish religion. Kunis, a granddaughter of Holocaust-surviving grandparents, and her family left the Soviet Union after deciding there was no future behind the Iron Curtain.
In 1991, when she was seven years old, Kunis immigrated to the U.S. with her parents and older brother and eventually settled in Los Angeles. The Kunis family experienced difficult new beginnings after arriving in California, after only being allowed to leave their Soviet-controlled country with $250.
Kunis and her family needed help understanding the American culture, people, and language upon first arriving in the United States. But her parents, Mark and Elvira, who gave up their established careers as a mechanical engineer and physics teacher, soon found work driving cabs and running a local pharmacy.
When she was nine years old, Kunis’ parents enrolled her in an after-school acting class that would inspire and influence her professional career. Soon after, she appeared in local commercials and landed minor roles in Days of Our Lives and the movie Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. Her big break came when she was cast as the chirpy and self-centered Jackie Burkhart in the smash hit television series That 70’s Show, a satirical comedy depicting 70’s era teenagers. She also landed the voice acting role of Meg in the Emmy award-winning show Family Guy. She’s since starred in big-budget silver screen productions, including Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Black Swan, Friend with Benefits, and Ted. Kunis was nominated for multiple awards, including a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Critics’ Choice Award nominations for her performance in Black Swan. She was also nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actress in a Comedy for the movie Ted.