Ukraine's First Lady: I Want a Husband by My Side, Not Historical Figure

In a candid conversation with the BBC, Ukraine's First Lady, Olena Zelenska, unveils the personal toll the ongoing war has taken on her family, shedding light on the intimate struggles that exist behind political facades.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Ukraine's First Lady: I Want a Husband by My Side, Not Historical Figure
© Getty Images News/Alexey Furman

In a candid conversation with the BBC, Ukraine's First Lady, Olena Zelenska, unveils the personal toll the ongoing war has taken on her family, shedding light on the intimate struggles that exist behind political facades.

Hiding, Hope, and the Strains of War

Olena Zelenska's narrative is as harrowing as it is hopeful. Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, she and her children were forced into months of concealed refuge.

The mental strain she underwent was palpable. "A constant feeling of adrenaline," she remarked, describing her initial emotional state. With time, however, came the need for acceptance and adaptation. "It was necessary to calm down and start living in the existing conditions," she mused.

Emerging from hiding, the turmoil of war transformed Olena from a relatively private figure into an international representative. As she began meeting world leaders and delivering speeches globally, her concerns remained deeply anchored in the personal realm.

Reflecting on her children's circumstances, she expressed distress, particularly for her 19-year-old daughter: "They dream of travelling, of new sensations, emotions. She does not have such an opportunity." However, in the midst of adversity, Olena found solace in boundaries.

"There are limitations in time in what you can allow yourself, they exist, and we somehow try to live within them," she shared.

An Enduring Bond with the President

The love story between Olena Zelenska and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi is as old as their high school days.

Their intertwined destinies saw them collaborate professionally; he took the stage as an actor, while she penned scripts. Yet, she admits she never envisioned him evolving into the "historical figure" he has become today. This metamorphosis brings its own set of challenges. "This may be a bit selfish, but I need my husband, not a historical figure, by my side," Olena confided.

Her faith in her husband remains unwavering. As she eloquently stated, "I believe in him and I support him. I know that he has enough strength. For any other person that I know, this situation would be much more difficult. He is really an extremely strong and resilient person." In her heart, Olena Zelenska embodies a sentiment likely shared by many in Ukraine and beyond: a belief in resilience, hope for triumph, and the conviction that even in the direst circumstances, love and support can offer the most potent sustenance.

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