The first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, is in the center of the political field

He stunned the world this week when he addressed the US Congress, calling for more Western support for Ukraine.

Professional screenwriter Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, moved from the backstage to the center of the political arena after the Russian invasion, making her voice heard on behalf of the Ukrainian people.

Unlike Vladimir Zelensky, one of the country’s most popular actors before he was elected president in 2019, his 44-year-old wife did not have the same willingness to hold public office.

At the start of the Russian offensive, he spent several weeks in hiding, moving from shelter to shelter as Moscow’s troops approached Kiev.

He stunned the world this week when he appealed to the US Congress for greater Western support for Ukraine.

“Help us put an end to this terror directed against Ukrainians,” he tearfully pleaded with the American representatives. She showed footage of the disabled children four months after her husband’s video conference speech.

Zelenska was notable for being the first wife of a foreign leader to address Congress, for which she received a standing ovation.

However, the art of diplomacy does not come naturally to him.


“I’ve always been a non-public person and I don’t like the extra attention I get,” the screenwriter told French magazine Elle a month before the scandal.

“A lot has changed for me during the two and a half years of being the first lady. I am aware that fate gives me a unique opportunity to communicate with people,” he adds.

Olena Kyachko, her maiden name, is an architecture graduate and grew up in Kryvyi Rih, central Ukraine, where her husband is also from.

The pair met at the age of 17 and their friendship turned into romance as they began their careers in the entertainment industry, she as a comedian and he wrote his own jokes.


I won’t panic

They married in 2003 before moving to Kyiv and giving birth to Oleksandra, now 17, and Kyrillo, 9.

During the election of her husband in 2019, unknown to the public, Olena claimed that she was not told when her husband decided to run for president.

Like everyone else, he revealed his candidacy on social networks and at the beginning of his tenure, it was difficult to support him at official events.


“He’s a man of duty,” explains etiquette expert Anna Chapliguina. “Not like Michelle Obama” is very comfortable in the spotlight, but like “Kate Middleton in her early days” in the royal family, it compares.

“She never dreamed or wanted to be the first lady. It ended up there by accident and in a planetary crisis,” Chapliguina sums up to AFP.

When she went to sleep on February 23, the day before the first attack, Zelenska had no idea that she would not sleep with her husband again for the next few months.


Although Vladimir Zelensky decided not to flee from the Russian forces, his wife went into hiding with the children. They stopped campaigns to improve school meals and promote Ukrainian language and culture abroad.


“I’m not going to panic and cry. I am calm and confident,” he assured his compatriots in a message published on Facebook.

more lives saved

In the following weeks, the family could only see Volodymyr Zelensky in his social media and media appearances.

Zelenska entered the scene on May 8, during a meeting with US First Lady Jill Biden in western Ukraine.

Since then, the Ukrainian woman has fulfilled both the agenda of contacts with the leaders’ wives, as well as her speeches and interviews.

In the United States, he moved lawmakers with images of Lisa Dmitrieva, a child he knew but died last week in a Russian attack in Vinnytsia, central Ukraine.

For Alyona Getmanschuk, director of the New Europe Center, a think tank in Kyiv, Zelenska’s personal touch helps to “reinforce the message” about the critical situation in which her country finds itself.

“It speaks to humanitarian needs, which is a common theme for the first lady. But it also shows that in the case of Ukraine, more military aid is synonymous with more lives saved,” adds the director of the laboratory.


© Agence France-Presse

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