WITHis the number two Russian target in the war against Ukraine: Olena Zelenska, wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky. Despite warnings from intelligence services such as the United States, she revealed that she did not expect a Russian invasion of Ukraine. “I could not believe it would happen. I didn’t even have a passport with me, “Selenská said in an exclusive interview with the British newspaper The Guardian.
On February 24, the day of the outbreak of war, Selenská, who is customary in Slavic-speaking countries, adopts the feminine form of her husband’s surname, woke up to a distant war roar and found her husband fully clothed in the room next door. door. “It’s already started,” he said.
“I thought I was in a parallel universe or that I was dreaming,” says Selenska, who has lived relatively closed since the beginning of the war. He does not want to leave Ukraine, he insists. However, she moved several times with her children, 17-year-old Oleksandra and nine-year-old Kyryl.
When her husband left for downtown Kiev on February 24, she packed her suitcase herself. Whenever the roar of bombs or fighters came too close, she and her children sought safety in the basement. “It simply came to my notice then. It’s like playing a computer game and having to go through each level to get home, “says the 44-year-old woman, who became the first lady of Ukraine in 2019.
She smiled all day to keep the children from seeing her panic. In the evening, the family saw each other again. The couple hugged, but there was no time for tears or sentimentality. Selenska and the children should be taken to a secret place. It wasn’t until later that night, she says, that she felt she might never see him again.
She doesn’t think much about the dangers that threaten her and her children all the time, “otherwise I would be paranoid,” says Selenská. Even her husband never told her about certain threats. But she was warned that the Russians could benefit from the abduction of the family.
“Of course, the pressure on the president may come from his family and I would not want him to have to choose between his family and his duties as president,” says Selenska. To prevent this, arrest should not be allowed in the first place. Selensky therefore had his family taken to safety. He himself did not follow the recommendations of the Western heads of state and remained in Kiev.
“The less I say, the safer I am”
Selenská does not say where the family has been in the last two months. “The less I say, the safer I am.” However, she moved with the children several times and continues to insist that she stay in Ukraine.
The First Lady of Ukraine also offers a glimpse into family life at this difficult time. The children were very quick and obedient in everything. “It simply came to our notice then. We watched the news and waited for the calls. The television was on all the time. ”She often saw President Zelenský’s emotional speeches. “It was real, he really had those feelings for sure.”
She could only talk to her husband sometimes on special facilities, the days were long and lonely. They are also no longer allowed to use social networks. To keep her busy, she set a precise schedule for each day. “You still have something to do and you don’t get lost in bad thoughts,” says Selenská.
As for her husband, she has not seen any changes in his mood in recent weeks. “I’m not worried about his mental health, but about his physical condition. He always gets sick after hard times, “Selenská explains. “As soon as he has time to rest, he catches a virus or something.”
Although the president’s family could still be the target of Russian attacks, he spends some time in Kiev – of course Zelenská did not reveal exactly where, but she does not live with her husband. Children also see their father from time to time. But mostly it’s just a fleeting meeting between her and her husband.