The First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, had an interview with the French daily, Le Parisien, published on March 22. In this interview, she speaks about her struggle to organize the rescue of children with serious illnesses. She also talks about the admirable role of women in the popular resistance of Ukraine against the Russian invasion. Excerpts of this interview are as follows:
Q: Are you feeling all right yourself?
Olena Zelenska: I feel like a person fighting in her home. Just like all other Ukrainians are. I rush to learn the news and obtain information. Where is the enemy targeting now? Are there any victims left behind? I closely follow the news about Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands of people, even those I personally know, are trapped underground with no communications, electricity, or medicine. This is presently the manners of all my compatriots. You must make a call to all your relatives every day. Are they alive? Check the notifications. If you receive a Read Message Sign, then there is still hope that they are alive. During the war, this kind of news gives you incredible happiness.
Q: You have been working with the First Ladies of Poland and France since days ago to have sick children evacuated. How is this operation turning out?
Olena Zelenska: These “convoys of life” are unprecedented. It is a true rescue mission. When it became clear that it was impossible to treat children with cancer even under the bomb shelters, we immediately looked for a solution… Some of these children stay in Poland to receive treatment. Others are sent to France, Italy, Germany, the United States, and Canada. I am very happy that I can be of use in this process.
Q: Do you have any hope that diplomatic talks would lead to a ceasefire?
Olena Zelenska: There is always hope.
Q: What is the role of Ukrainian women in the war?
Olena Zelenska: Before the war, I never had such an experience. Ukraine has two million more women than men. These figures have become more meaningful, today. Our resistance, as our future victory, has taken on a particularly feminine face. Women are fighting in the army. They have signed up for national defense units. They are the foundation of a powerful volunteer movement to supply, deliver, and feed. They make all shelters lively. Sometimes, others look after their children. These women keep the economy going; they go abroad to find financial resources. They are simply working in hospitals, pharmacies, shops, transportation, and the public services sector so that life continues.
Q: How you do work with your husband President Volodymyr Zelenskyy?
Olena Zelenska: Volodymyr is an example to me. I am his trusted partner and supporter. Today, all of Ukraine is united for victory. This is our mission. In this war, I stand with all the people of Ukraine.
Q: Up to this point, your husband has been known by international public opinion for keeping calm during the war. Having known him since 1995, does this come as a surprise to you?
Olena Zelenska: Do I admire this man? Yes, every single day. Am I surprised? No, Volodymyr has always been like this. Determined and calm. During the war, all Ukrainians and the whole world clearly saw the principles he holds. They felt the strength in him. He will never abandon what is in Ukraine’s interests.
Q: On the first day of the Russian invasion, you wrote in your Instagram, I would never panic nor cry. I will be calm and confident. After nearly one month of the war, are you keeping to this word?
Olena Zelenska: There are tears when I see the victims, the death of children, the families gunned down or buried under the rubble of their own homes. I cannot help myself. However, there is no panic. Panic comes when you do not know what to do. Me, I know perfectly well, what we must do, and the Ukrainian people know, too. Our plan is to protect Ukrainians and win.