Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, says the war with Russia has not changed her husband but only revealed to the world his determination to prevail and the fact that he is a man you can count on. Zelenska, in an interview published Friday in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, also said she has not seen her husband, 44-year-old Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, since Russia invaded Ukraine. When Zelenska woke up on Feb. 24, the day the war began, her husband was already awake and dressed. He told her simply: "It's started," and left for the office in Kyiv, she recalled.
"Since Feb. 24, I have been seeing my husband just like you—on TV and on the video recordings of his speeches," she said. Zelenska said the couple's two children were with her, but she did not disclose their location. She accused Russia of trying to carry out a genocide against the Ukrainian people and expressed sympathy with the more than 11 million Ukrainians who have been forced to flee their homes. She thanked Poland, which has accepted the largest number of them, with 3 million crossing the border since the war began. Most are women and children. "I wish I could hug each of them," she said.
The newspaper, making clear that it interviewed Zelenska remotely, asked if the war had changed her husband, the former comedic actor who has won respect worldwide as a wartime leader. "The war has not changed him. He has always been a man you can rely on," she replied, adding, "It's just that now the whole world has seen what may not have been clear to everyone before." Asked if she had a message for the mothers, wives, and sisters of Russian soldiers, Zelenska said "nothing gets through to them" and declined to address the women. "During those two months, as their sons are being killed in Ukraine as criminals and occupiers, they had time to define their position," Zelenska said. "Since there is no such declaration—if the coffins do not convince them that something is wrong here—then I have nothing to say to them."
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