Olena Zelenska: Ukraine’s first lady tells of emotional impact of Russian’s invasion and war on her family

Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska has told of the emotional strain that Russia’s invasion and war has put on her family, saying: “I need my husband, not a historical figure, by my side.”

Ms Zelenska spoke of the pain of her children being unable to plan their futures and how they cannot experience the “new sensations” and “emotions” that typical young people do.

In an interview with the BBC, she said: “This may be a bit selfish, but I need my husband, not a historical figure, by my side.”

The first lady was forced into hiding with her children when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Those early months brought “a constant feeling of adrenaline” - but she says she has since managed to calm herself and start living life in “the existing conditions”.

Ms Zelenska, 45, emerged from hiding last year and has since travelled the world meeing leaders and giving speeches.

“We don’t live together with my husband, the family is separated,” she said.

“We have the opportunity to see each other but not as often as we would like. My son misses his father.”

“But we stay strong, we have strength both emotionally and physically. And I am sure we will handle it together,” she added.

The first lady and President Volodymyr Zelensky were high school sweethearts. They went on to work together in a comedy troupe and TV studio, with him as an actor and her as a scriptwriter.

They have two children, daughter Oleksandra, 19, and Kyrylo, thought to be 10.

She said the war was taking its toll on her children.

“It pains me to watch that my kids don’t plan anything. At such an age, young people. My daughter is 19. They dream of travelling, of new sensations, emotions. She does not have such an opportunity.

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