Olena Zelenska: Ukraine’s first lady says her country ‘sees no end to our suffering’

“It’s very difficult to last five months,” Zelenskaya’s Christian Amanpour of CNN said. “We need to accumulate strength, we need to save energy.”

“We see no end to our suffering,” she said.

Russian forces destroyed most of the Ukrainian defenses in the Luhansk region and consolidated control over a strip of territory in the south. Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk together make up Ukraine’s Donbass, an industrial hub dotted with factories and coal fields that has been the site of sporadic fighting since 2014, when Russian-backed separatists seized control of two territories — the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic.

Zelenskaya’s husband, President Volodymyr Zelensky, told G7 leaders on Monday that he wants to end the war in Ukraine by early next year.
For now, fighting continues in the east, with rockets hitting targets across the country, including on Monday a shopping mall that was occupied by at least 1,000 people when the air raid siren sounded. At least 18 people were killed and dozens were missing.
Like her husband, Zelenskaya called the attack “terrorism.” While she said she was “shocked” by the incident, she explained that she was annoyed at how many times the methods of the Russian military had taken her by surprise.

“We have been shocked many times. I don’t know how else the invaders can shock us,” Zelenskaya said.

Family uprooted

Zelenskaya said that she and her children had not seen Zelensky for two months of the war. In the early days of the war, the president lived in his office and his family were forbidden to stay there to keep them safe.

Since then, the fighting has moved further away from Kyiv, which allowed the family to get together, but not for an extended period of time.

Their experience, according to Zelenskaya, is not unique. She calculated that half of all Ukrainian families were torn apart by the war.

“Our relationship is on pause, like all Ukrainians,” she said. “We, like every family, are waiting for the reunion so that we can be together again.”

Zelenskaya said she and others are trying to cope by “trying to find joy in the simple things,” even if they are fleeting. She compared herself to a photograph in Borodyanka, a city east of Kyiv. occupied by Russian troops in the first days of the war.

The image, Zelenskaya said, shows a row of bombed-out, flattened buildings, of which only one item remains – a wardrobe.

“I’m like that closet on Borodyanka,” Zelenskaya said. “I’m trying to hold on like that closet.”

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