It has been three months of war in Ukraine, and Olena Zelenska relives it all again, that early morning of February 24: “I remember that I woke up to the noise that came from outside, as it probably happened to everyone. It was dark, it was almost at night, and I saw that Volodimir was not by my side. I went into the next room and he was already dressed, in a suit but no tie. I asked him: ‘What’s the matter?’ And he answered me: ‘he has started’. I can’t describe the emotions I felt: anxiety, astonishment. He told me that and left. After that, we didn’t see each other again for a long time.”

From first lady to lady of iron (and fire). Olena Zelenska appears for the first time on television with her president husband and, to say the least, takes it ironically, she who in another life wrote the sketches of the comedian Zelensky and now finds herself thanking the BBC for bringing them both together around of a table, with a cup of tea and biscuits: “This interview allows us to spend time together…”. “Yes, a TV date…” laughs the Ukrainian president, from the side, “Thank you, really!”

What luxury: “Yes, he lives for his work and in the family we can no longer see him…”. Also because Volodimir Zelenski was the number one target of the Russians and Olena and her two children Oleksandra and Kyrylo, aged 17 and 9, the number two target.

He in the bunker, she hidden who knows where: “We haven’t seen him for two and a half months. We just talked on the phone. Our family is destroyed, like any Ukrainian family.” But Olena makes it very clear: “No one will separate me from my husband, not even war.”

Separated during the war, Volodimir and Olena have always been inseparable in times of peace. Both born in 1978, they have had parallel lives since college at Kryvi Rig: it took eight years for the tenacious young Zelensky to snatch her away from a boyfriend and make him say yes; Olena Kiyashko even agreed to be baptized as an adult in an Orthodox church so she could marry him.

He became more and more popular with his shows, she left architecture to follow him in the Kvartal 95 studios. He was the center of attention and happy to bring his 14-year-old daughter to the set; her backstage taking care of the boy who had just started elementary school.

At first, Olena did not like the idea of ​​Zelensky leaving television for politics: “I was totally against it. I told him very clearly. I saw the difficulties. It didn’t even seem like a project to me: it was a complete change of course.” in our lives”.

She could not imagine, however, such a plot twist: the last time she saw her husband, before this interview, was a few days ago at the funeral of the first Ukrainian president, Kravchuk. “I’ve always hoped to stay in the shadows,” Olena once said, “but if your husband does this job, there are duties you can’t delegate to anyone”: first, keep your nerves of steel in a trench. The first lady is getting it.

“We will return”, he now writes on social networks, “because there is nothing better than coming home”. She wishes for a normal life: “I will return to my school. To my cup. To my chestnuts. To my relatives. We have the misfortune of having a neighbor who shows brotherhood with missiles and terror…”.

Once, in cream-colored suits, Olena wore her Piaget watches. Today bites the minutes, to keep the family together in the darkest hour.

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