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While Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has received international acclaim for his leadership during the current crisis, his wife Olena Zelenska has generally preferred to stay out of the limelight.
Her profile, however, has apparently increased as a resolute supporter of her husband, even though she was hardly initially thrilled about his entry into politics, as well as her advocacy for freedom for her countrymen and women in the face of the Russian invasion.
According to a translation of a recent Instagram post, Zelenska wrote that “I am proud to live with you and in the same country…Today I will not have panic and tears. I will be calm and confident. My children are looking at me. I will be next to them. And next to my husband. And with you. I love you! I love Ukraine!”
In a separate Instagram post she wrote, in part, “Ukraine is a peaceful country. We are against the war and did not attack first. But we are not going to give up. The whole world, look: we are fighting for peace in your countries as well.”
Zelenska, 44, met her husband when she was pursuing an architectural degree at Kryvyi Rih National University and her future husband was studying law. They married in September 2003 and have two children.
In a form of life imitating art perhaps, President Zelenskyy was a comedian who played the role of Ukraine’s president on a popular satirical TV show for four years called “Servant of the People.” She reportedly found out that he was running for president for real via social media because her husband “forget” to tell her.
“But despite her initial reluctance, her goal was to support her spouse, no matter his decision. She frequently appeared by Zelenskyy’s side during photo ops and speeches,” Fox News reported.
Campaigning on an anti-corruption platform, Zelenskyy won the presidency in a landslide in the runoff that was held on April 21, 2019.
“I prefer staying backstage,” Zelenska, who has opted for screenwriting (which befits someone who is more comfortable working behind the scenes) in the production company that Zelenskyy founded rather than architecture, told Vogue Ukraine that same year.
“My husband is always on the forefront, while I feel more comfortable in the shade. I am not the life of the party; I do not like to tell jokes. It’s not in my character. But I found reasons for myself in favor of publicity. One of them is the opportunity to attract people’s attention to important social issues,” she added.
As Ukraine’s first lady, she reportedly has become an advocate for the Paralympics, children’s nutrition, the fight against domestic violence, gender equality, and helping showcase Ukrainian fashion designers. She sees herself as an intermediary between the government and the people.
To maintain family privacy, Zelenska has vowed never to share photos of her kids on social media, which is the opposite approach taken by many of those in the public eye in America and overseas.
Rather than fleeing the country, Zelenskyy has famously stayed in Kyiv during the invasion, and his family, too, remains somewhere in Ukraine. The entire family reportedly remains under an assassination threat from Russian forces.
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