What We Know About Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Wife, Olena Zelenska

As Ukraine fights back against an unprovoked invasion by Russia, all eyes have been on Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has been in Kyiv fighting alongside Ukraine's military and armed citizens to push back Russian forces. "We aren't going to lay down weapons. We will protect the country. Our weapon is our truth, and our turn is that it's our land, our country, and our children. And we will defend all of this," Zelenskyy said (via Associated Press). 

Although he admits that Russia has branded him "target No. 1" (per People), Zelenskyy turned down an offer from the United States to evacuate him and his family from Ukraine, responding, "I need ammunition, not a ride." 

As the president continues to lead, his wife, Olena Volodymyrivna Zelenska, as well as their two children, are in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. Like her husband, Zelenska is staying strong despite the uncertainty that she and her family will remain safe. "I will not have panic and tears. I will be calm and confident. My children are looking at me. I will be next to them. And next to my husband. And with you," she wrote in an Instagram post.

So, who is this strong woman who serves as Ukraine's first lady?

Olena Zelenska and Volodymyr Zelenskyy met in college

Although they were both born and raised in the same town, Olena Zelenska didn't meet her future husband until they were both students at Kryvyi Rih National University (per Daily Mail). At that time, politics were not on the couple's radar. She was studying architecture and Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a law student who dreamed of being a successful comedian (per Hollywood Life). At some point, Zelenska decided to switch her focus to writing and even worked as a comedy writer on her husband's Ukrainian comedy show "Servant of the People," where he ironically played the President of Ukraine (per People). It ran for three seasons. 

Together, they founded Kvartal 95 Studio, a Ukrainian production company where she still serves as a screenwriter. They also welcomed two children. Their daughter, Oleksandra, was born in July 2004, less than a year after the couple tied the knot on September 6, 2003. Their son, Kyrylo, was born in January 2013. While her husband enjoyed the spotlight as an entertainer, Zelenska preferred to live a private life — until Zelenskyy made the decision to run for president.

She was not happy when her husband decided to run for president

Olena Zelenska admits that when her husband, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, shared his plans to run for President of Ukraine, she was less than thrilled. "Frankly speaking, I aggressively opposed the start of this project," she said (per Daily Mail). "Because this is a very difficult move; it's not even a project, it's another direction in life."

It shouldn't be surprising, though, that when it came time to campaign, Zelenska was by her husband's side. Despite not having any political background or party affiliation, Zelenskyy won the 2019 election, beating incumbent Petro Poroshenko and earning more than 73% of votes (per USA Today). And Zelenska took on her new role as first lady with grace, deciding to use it as way to bring light to important causes. "I am a non-public person. But the new realities [being First Lady] require their own rules, and I'm trying to comply with them," she told Vogue Ukraine. "I prefer staying backstage. My husband is always on the forefront, while I feel more comfortable in the shade. I am not the life of the party, I do not like to tell jokes. It's not in my character. But I found reasons for myself in favor of publicity. One of them is the opportunity to attract people's attention to important social issues."

Olena Zelenska works hard for important causes

Olena Zelenska has used her platform as the First Lady of Ukraine to bring awareness to important causes in her country. "I have been living in this country all my life, and I understand how many problems we have got," she told Vogue Ukraine. "But if I'm going to grab onto everything, it won't work, so our team decided to focus on specific tasks: children's health, equal opportunities for all Ukrainians and cultural diplomacy."

Using her new position in December 2019, Zelenska gave a well-received speech at the third Ukrainian Women's Congress. This prompted the country's entry to the G7 international initiative on gender equality, the Biarritz Partnership (per Tatler). Zelenska travels often to learn from different cultures and nations in a bid to help her own country. "In Japan, for example, there is a nutritionist in every school that pays special attention to the nutrition of children with allergies, and the kitchens in schools are completely separated and sterile, like an operations room," she explained to Vogue Ukraine. "I sourced numerous ideas and became convinced that making positive changes is real, you just have to sincerely crave something, and work hard." In her role, Zelenska has also overhauled the school nutrition system in Ukraine.

She has turned into a fashion icon

Olena Zelenska is well aware that as First Lady of Ukraine, all eyes are on her. That isn't easy when she's meeting other fashion icons including Kate Middleton. But Zelenska has more than held her own, and once again used it as an opportunity to promote the talents of the Ukrainian people. During her overseas trips, she chooses ensembles created by local designers such as Ivan Frolov, ELENAREVA, Vita Kin, and Lake Studio. "I am pleased when they ask me in New York or Paris who is the designer of my outfit. And they do ask me," Olena said to Vogue Ukraine. "And it wouldn't be as exciting to name a major western brand, which they already know there, but how nice it is to promote Ukrainian designers to the world."

Zelenska has continued to show her love for her country during this difficult time, posting on Instagram, "My dear people, Ukrainians! I'm looking at you all today: everyone I see on TV, on the streets, on the internet. I see your posts and videos. And you know what? You are incredible. I am proud to live with you and in the same country," (via Tatler)

Olena Zelenska wants to protect her children's privacy

Olena Zelenska is adjusting to the spotlight, although she admits it is difficult not having any private time. "I do not have enough time alone with myself. I have got two kids, so I have rarely been alone before," she told Vogue Ukraine. "I probably have had my only private space in the car, while driving. Now they have deprived me of this — I am always guarded. Now a bathroom is my only retreat," she joked.

One thing that hasn't changed: Zelenska is still fiercely protective of her two children. She and Volodymyr Zelenskyy share daughter Oleksandra and son Kyrylo. "Let them choose how they want to live," she told Vogue Ukraine. "The eldest daughter, Sasha, however, has already acted in films — but I hope she will not go further in this area. The youngest, Cyril, still has a chance to have a normal childhood — to play with other children, go for sports, attend music school without attracting unnecessary attention."

Olena Zelenska believes her country will win this war

Olena Zelenska has made no secret in her pride of being Ukrainian, and she is particularly in awe of the women who are fighting for the country's freedom against Russia. "Before the war (how scary and still unusual it is to say this), I once wrote that there are two million more women in Ukraine than men," she wrote on Instagram (per Sky News). "Just statistics. But now it is taking on a whole new meaning. Because it means that our current resistance also has a particularly feminine face. My admiration and bow to you, incredible compatriots!"

She pointed to not only the women in the military on the front lines, but also those who "take children to shelters every day without panic and entertain them with games and cartoons to protect children's minds from the war," as well as the women "who give birth in bomb shelters." Zelenska believes that the Ukrainian people's strength is proof that they will win this war. "There will be spring, there will be victory, there will be Ukraine!" she posted.