In 2022, Ursula von der Leyen was named the most powerful woman by Forbes magazine. She earned this place after expressing strong and determined support for Ukraine and great leadership during the Covid pandemic in Europe.
Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen (also known as Ursula Albrecht) was born on October 8, 1959, in Brussels, Belgium. She is a German politician, minister of defense, and a member of the German Christian Democratic Union. On December 1, 2019, she started serving as the president of the European Commission.
Ursula von der Leyen was raised along with 6 other siblings in a Christian family. For the first 13 years of her life, she lived in Brussels. In 1971 she moved to the Hanover region in Germany after her father started his political career as the Minister President of Lower Saxony. U. Von der Leyen is the daughter of Ernest Albrecht – a highly-ranked European politician and a member of the Christian Democratic Party in Germany. Her mother Heidi-Adele Albrecht had a doctoral degree and highly influenced her daughter‘s academic success.
German politician Ursula von der Leyen studied economics from 1977-1980 at the Universities of Gottingen and Munster, as well as the London School of Economics, however, she did not complete the studies. She switched to studying medicine instead and in 1987 graduated from the Hannover Medical School in Germany. In 1988 she worked as an assistant physician at a gynecology clinic for the next 4 years. In 1991 she also graduated as a Doctor of Medicine. From 1992-1996 Ursula von der Leyen lived in the USA. After coming back to Germany, she became a faculty member of the Department of Epidemiology, Social Medicine and Health System Research. Besides that, she acquired a Master of public health degree.
In 1990 Ursula von der Leyen became a member of the Christian Democratic Union. In 1996 she became active in politics in Lower Saxony, where her father governed for 14 years (1976-1990). From 2003 to 2005 she served as a minister in the state government of Lower Saxony. In the period from 2005 to 2009, she worked as the Federal Minister of Family Affairs and Youth. After that, she started working as the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs. On December 17, 2013, she became the first female minister of Defense in Germany.
In December 2019, Ursula von der Leyen took office from Jean-Claud Juncker as the President of the European Commission and became the first woman making history as the first female to occupy this position.
“For me, it’s like coming home,” said Ursula von der Leyen about her new job.
Attitude towards Ukraine and other achievements
Ursula von der Leyen was one of the first European leaders to visit Kyiv after the Russian war against Ukraine had started. On May 9, U. Von der Leyen visited the capital of Ukraine again, where she commemorated Europe Day, honored Ukraine, and discussed accomplished goals and future plans with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. V. Zelensky thanked the President of the European Commission for the EU‘s help to supply ammunition to Ukraine with 1 million artillery shells.
“We reduced, for example, our imports from Russia by nearly two-thirds, thus depriving Russia of crucial revenue streams. So, we have already imposed a heavy price on the Kremlin through the ten successive sanctions packages. Last Friday, the Commission adopted its proposal for the 11th sanctions package. The focus of this package is now on cracking down on circumvention,” said U von der Leyen in the meeting.
“Ukrainians tell us that when they imagine their future, they see Europe’s flag flying over their cities. And I have no doubt that Ukraine will be part of our union,” she added on June 21, during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London.
Good to be back in Kyiv.
Where the values we hold dear are defended everyday.
So it is such a fitting place to celebrate the day of Europe.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 9, 2023
The COVID-19 pandemic started just as Ursula von der Leyen was elected as the President of the European Commission. In her 2021 State of the Union speech, she addressed the success while handling the pandemic. In the speech, she emphasized that more than 70% of adults in the EU were fully vaccinated and the EU was the only one that shared half of the vaccines with the rest of the world.
After the pandemic slowed down, Ursula von der Leyen delivered a statement: “Finally, after more than 3 years, COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency. This is good news. This pandemic has had a heavy toll on people, our society, and our economy. But we have successfully overcome it thanks to determined action at global, EU, and Member State level, and to the resilience and solidarity of our citizens.”
In 2020, U. Von der Leyen supported EU sanctions against Belarus when security services in the country used aggression and brutality against protesters after A. Lukashenko‘s victory in the presidential election.
During the Israel and Palestine crisis in 2021, Ursula von der Leyen condemned reckless attacks by Palestinian militant movement „Hamas” against Israel.
Ursula von der Leyen‘s husband Heiko von der Leyen is from a noble family of silk merchants. They met at a university choir in Gottingen and got married on September 21, 1986. Heiko von der Leyen is a German doctor, aristocrat, and professor of medicine. Together they have seven children – David von der, Sophie von der, Maria Donata, Victoria von der, Johanna von der, Egmont von der, and Gracia von der, who were born from 1987 to 1999.
The family lives on a farm in Burgdorf near Hanover, where they keep horses. U. Von der Leyen is an equestrian and has practiced competitive horse riding.