Ukraine: President Zelensky’s wife Olena Zelenska talks about her daily life, her fears and her struggles

She. How does war affect your daily life?

Olena Zelenska. We do everything so that every day is not in vain. I have two responsibilities. The first, as the wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky: I work with the media, I answer interviews, and I participate in humanitarian projects. The second, as a mother [d’une fille de 17 ans et d’un garçon de 9 ans, ndlr]. I have been teaching my son for two months. For security reasons, she cannot take the same online course as her class. I ask her comrades what they did every day, and we go back to it together: Ukrainian, English, math… fortunately, she’s in CE2, I can still teach her something. Honestly, it helps calm my anxiety.

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She. Are your kids asking you questions that you have trouble answering?

oz There is one that both adults and children are asking, but unfortunately that still has no answer: when will the war stop? But we are optimistic. All together.

She. You support the morale of Ukrainians through social networks. And you, what keeps you going?

oz Today in Ukraine, everyone cheers everyone up. As if we have formed a great human bond. Comfort comes first from our family and friends. But all those who support us are strangers. See the courage of our soldiers, who guard the checkposts no matter what the weather. Or our restaurants, to serve food to the elderly. Or residents of Kiev gathered to help them in the bombed-out area. Not to mention the people who organize themselves around the world to send us medicine. All of this gives us the strength to hold on. There are also the first women in the world with whom we have arranged for the removal of sick children. These children give us strength. Their smiles in the middle of the bomb, the courage of their parents. The victory of our army also gives us something. If you need inspiration, turn to Ukraine! We have some extras.

She. You have set up corridors to remove these sick children. Heartbreaking pictures of perverted little children and teenagers can be seen on your Instagram account. So far more than two hundred children have died. Do you think international aid is enough?

oz Let me be clear – after the fiftieth day of the war, I stopped taking the pinch. Want to save Ukrainian children? Close the airspace, and bombs will stop killing them. There are hundreds of children who have lost their arms or legs. But the airspace is not closed yet. Do you want to tell me We do everything we can to move children in acceptable situations. We call it the ‘caravan of life’; It goes through Lviv then through Poland. From there the children are transferred to other European countries. Of course, we can save a few lives, but that is not enough. Because there is no guarantee that a bomb will not hit these children when we try to remove them: the whole country has become a battlefield. And while our work with children does not stop there, it is important to make sure that they are welcomed in other countries. I know I can rely on women first to make sure little Ukrainians can go to school and be cared for. I can’t thank them enough for what they do to ensure a normal life around these children.

A grandmother and her granddaughter are ill, converted into a field hospital in a school (western Ukraine, in March). May 12, 2022 © Nariman L-Mofty / AP / Sipa

She. Many are wondering what can be done in the face of such a wave of violence, especially in the face of Russian crime in cities like Bucha and Borodianka. Do you also sometimes feel this helplessness?

oz The various testimonies I have been able to read speak of the guilt that many of my countrymen feel for their survival. It is a classic phenomenon, associated with empathy that we feel for others. When one of us suffers, we are like a big family. We must fight this feeling of helplessness and despair. The best way to do this is to fight. If we can’t fight, we can always help, one way or another, everyone at their level. If you can make sandwiches for refugees, great. If you have a room to offer in your home, this is the way to make your contribution. Every small gesture makes the feeling of helplessness disappear.

She. Do you think the picture symbolizes this war?

oz More awesome photos from each other reach us every day. I especially think of this little boy in Boucha, near his mother’s temporary grave. [voir page de droite, ndlr]. Or a picture of an elderly woman sitting in front of the rubble of a bombed-out building as rescuers search for her family members beneath the rubble… but there is another picture in Borodanka, where we see the wreckage of a kitchen. A sewer building, a cupboard still hanging on the wall. There is a terracotta jug in the shape of a rooster, which belongs to all Ukrainian families. This picture has become a meme – with the caption ‘Let’s hang like this kitchen cupboard and resist like this rooster’. The good news: the owner of the kitchen and pitcher has been found; She’s lost everything, but she’s alive.


Vlad, 6, near the temporary grave where his mother lay (Boucha, April 13). Rodrigo Abd / AP / Sipa

She. You and your husband Kryvyi Rih were born. Do you have any memories of this city?

oz It is a very dynamic and very young city. This is where I gained self-confidence. I hope he is happy.

She. What does your country, Ukraine, mean to you?

oz This is my homeland. If Ukraine had a taste, it would be cherry turnover. If it is a season, it will be summer.

She. The current war is also an information war. Beyond the images that tear our hearts apart, there are a lot of jokes being spread on networks like these videos of farmers firing on tanks. Could Sense of Humor be a weapon against a dictator like Putin?

oz You know, I had a job related to humor [scénariste pour la série dans laquelle jouait son mari, elle a aussi lancé une émission de stand-up au féminin, ndlr], And I have a lot of respect for Polish writer Stanisla Jerzy Lake. He was born in Lviv. He was resistant during World War II. He was able to escape from a concentration camp. Did he have an easy life? No. But he always keeps his sense of humor and makes people laugh. For him, humor has a philosophical meaning. As he put it: “Humor is when terror becomes ridiculous. I would add: laughter will always triumph over fear. Everyone in Ukraine knows this saying: ‘Let us not let laughter sink.’

She. What do you miss the most today?

oz The sweetness of everyday life, when we don’t ask ourselves every evening: “Are we going to survive tomorrow?”


Refugees from Kharkiv, after their arrival in Poland (early March). গ্রে Adam Gray / SWNS / Abaca

She. “I had a dream,” said Martin Luther King. Do you have a dream for your country?

oz I dream that one Ukrainian will not die and we will witness victory together. Let every child stand there, that day. He will come. What was destroyed will be rebuilt, and I am not just talking about buildings, but completely independent and permanent people. I dream we can all live in peace.

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