Ukraine’s first lady emerges as a staunch defender of her nation on social media

Mar 9, 2022, 2:44 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:18 pm
KIEV, UKRAINE - AUGUST 24: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY â MANDATORY CREDIT - "PRESS OFFICE OF UKRAINIAN PRESIDENCY / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and his wife Olena Zelenska (R) lay the wreath on the monument at Mykhailivska Square within the 29th Independence Day celebrations at the Sofiyska Square in Kiev, Ukraine on August 24, 2020. (Photo by PressOffice of Ukrainian Presidency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Photo by PressOffice of Ukrainian Presidency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, posted an open letter addressed to the world’s media on Tuesday, detailing what she described as the “mass murder of Ukrainian civilians.”

In recent weeks Zelenska has repeatedly used social media to highlight the plight of her nation, yet none have been quite as direct as her recent post, which ends with the rallying cry: “We will win. Because of our unity. Unity towards love for Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine!”

As her husband, President Volodymyr Zelensky, has emerged as the face of Ukrainian defiance of the Russian invasion, Zelenska has become increasingly vociferous online as a means to support him and bolster international awareness of their country’s plight.

When Russia first invaded Ukraine on February 24, Zelensky declared in a video statement that he believed “enemy sabotage groups” had entered Kyiv and that he was their number one target. His family, he said, was the second target.

The whereabouts of his wife and two children are secret, for security reasons. Nonetheless, Zelenska has been playing an active role on social media, inspiring her people and backing resistance to Russian forces, while garnering support from the rest of the world. On Instagram alone, she has 2.4 million followers.

The 44-year-old published the open letter Tuesday on her various social media platforms, as well as on the President’s official website, in response to what she said was the “overwhelming number of media outlets from around the world” that had requested an interview with her.

She began the impassioned missive — headlined “I testify” — by recalling the events of February 24.

“Tanks crossed the Ukrainian border, planes entered our airspace, missile launchers surrounded our cities,” she wrote.

“Despite assurances from Kremlin-backed propaganda outlets, who call this a ‘special operation’ — it is, in fact, the mass murder of Ukrainian civilians.”

Zelenska highlighted the “terrifying and devastating” child casualties, while also describing the horror of babies born in bomb shelters and roads “flooded” with refugees.

According to the website of the Ukrainian Women’s Congress, a public platform that lobbies for gender equality in government and wider Ukrainian society, Zelenska was born in February 1978 and met her future husband at the Kryvyi Rih Gymnasium №95 high school in Kryvyi Rih, the southern Ukrainian city where they both grew up. Her biography on the site says she then majored in architecture at the Kryvyi Rih Economic Institute, graduating in 2000.

The couple married in 2003 and had daughter Oleksandra a year later. Their son, Kyrylo, was born in 2013.

Like her husband, who has a law degree, Zelenska moved away from her academic field of interest and into showbusiness.

She helped Zelensky create stand-up performances for the Russian TV comedy show KVN, according to Ukrainian press agency UNIAN, and later became a screenwriter at TV production company Kvartal 95 Studio, which she co-founded.

In an extensive interview with Vogue Ukraine in 2019, shortly after her husband swept to power in a landslide election, Zelenska described herself as a “non-public person” who prefers to stay “backstage.”

When her comedian husband first expressed his political ambitions, his wife was none too impressed. In the interview with Vogue, which featured a glamorous photo shoot, she said: “I was not too happy when I realized that those were the plans. I realized how everything would change, and what difficulties we would have to face.”

She spoke of adjusting to life in the public sphere, but expressed her determination to protect her children, saying: “Let them choose how they want to live.”

In the three years since assuming the role of first lady, she has accompanied her husband on numerous official visits around the world, including to the USA, Japan and France. Meanwhile her position has enabled her to focus on numerous issues close to her heart, among them “children’s health, equal opportunities for all Ukrainians and cultural diplomacy,” she told Vogue.

One of her campaigns has been to improve meals for children at school, going on fact-finding missions to Latvia, Japan and the USA, among other countries.

Needless to say, she is now focused on Ukraine’s battle for survival. Earlier this month she set up a dedicated Telegram channel to provide advice on “how to act and live in war time.”

Hours after publishing her open letter, Zelenska, who in 2020 was admitted to hospital with Covid-19, updated her Instagram feed with a picture of young cancer patients heading to safety and treatment in Poland.

She wrote: “These are young cancer patients from Ukraine. Just yesterday, they were hiding from the shelling in the basements of clinics. Now they are crossing the Polish border on the way to find safety and, most importantly, to continue their treatments. No aggressor in the world can prevent them from winning the battle against the disease!”

In her open letter she reiterated her husband’s demand for a no-fly zone, adding: “Ukraine is stopping the force that may aggressively enter your cities tomorrow under the pretext of saving civilians.”

“If we don’t stop Putin, who threatens to start a nuclear war, there will be no safe place in the world for any of us.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

The superyacht Amadea that American authorities say is owned by a Russian oligarch previously sanct...
Associated Press

Russian superyacht seized by US arrives in San Diego Bay

A $325 million superyacht seized by the United States from a sanctioned Russian oligarch has arrived in San Diego Bay.
16 hours ago
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 03: A pro-choice activist holds up a sign during a rally in front of the U.S. ...
REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press

Planned Parenthood sues Idaho over ‘trigger’ abortion ban

A regional Planned Parenthood organization is suing Idaho over its trigger-law abortion ban, saying it violates the state Constitution.
16 hours ago
police, crime, police tape...
Associated Press

8-year-old Florida boy accidentally shoots and kills baby

A 1-year-old girl is dead and her 2-year-old sister injured after an 8-year-old boy accidentally shot them at a Florida motel.
16 hours ago
An image taken from a video posted by  Robert Nightingale, who was a passenger aboard the Amtrak tr...
Steve Almasy, David Williams and Pete Muntean, CNN

At least 50 injured and multiple people killed when Amtrak train derails in Missouri after hitting dump truck

About 200 people were hurt when an Amtrak train derailed in Missouri after striking a dump truck.
16 hours ago
FILE: A Frontier airlines plane lands at the Miami International Airport on June 16, 2021 in Miami,...
Associated Press

Frontier and Spirit stocks fall heading into key merger vote

Shares of Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines have tumbled just days before the shareholder vote on their proposed merger.
16 hours ago
First responders work at the scene of the crash in a rural part of California. (Credit: KPIX)...
Stella Chan and Eric Levenson, CNN

Amtrak train collides with vehicle at California intersection without crossing arms, killing three

An Amtrak train hit a passenger vehicle, killing three people and causing major injuries to two others in California.
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Ukraine’s first lady emerges as a staunch defender of her nation on social media