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President Zelensky and wife Olena reflect on marriage in Vogue cover story: ‘She is my love’

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Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska is Vogue magazine’s latest digital cover star.

In the wide-ranging interview, which was conducted in-person in Kyiv, the first lady and mother of two discussed her nearly 20 year marriage to President Volodymyr Zelensky, their shared history, and her children being separated from their father during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenska, born Olena Kiyashko, met her future husband in high school in their hometown of Kryvyi Rih in southeast Ukraine. The two began dating while at university and went on to form a satirical comedy troupe. In 2003, they started production company Kvartal 95 and produced the popular satirical program Evening Kvartal, for which Zelensky was the star and Zelenska was a writer.

Zelenska explained to Vogue that when she first met Zelensky, their similar sense of humour is what initially attracted them to each other. “Probably, humor was this mutual chemistry between us,” she said, adding that Zelensky tried out some jokes on her early in their relationship.

“My jokes don’t always go over well with her,” the president chimed in. “She is a very good editor.”

Although President Zelensky was more focused on her “eyes and lips” when they first met, it didn’t take long for him to fall even harder for Zelenska when the two started talking.

“That’s when you cross the distance from like to love. That’s what happened for me,” he said.

The two were married in 2003 and welcomed daughter Oleksandra one year later. In 2013, Olena gave birth to their second child, son Kyrylo. Like many Ukrainian families, President Zelensky has been separated from his children for security reasons since the war in Ukraine began in February. For Zelenska, she’s been able to see her children, but admitted the separation from their father has been difficult on Oleksandra and Kyrylo too.

“I don’t even know how I would have survived these months if we had been apart,” she said of her children. “[Zelensky] is having a much harder time in this regard. He suffers. And then my kids do, too, because they can’t see each other.”

Later on in the interview, President Zelensky said he’s been “worried sick” about his family’s safety but he doesn’t “want them to be put in danger” if they were to reunite. Most of all, he’s proud of Zelenska for guiding their children, and the people of Ukraine, through these difficult times.

“She has a strong personality to start with. And probably she is stronger than she thought she was,” he said. “And this war – well, any war is probably bound to bring out qualities you never expected to have.”

Zelensky maintained that his family needed to be role models for the Ukrainian people, including his wife, who he says plays a “a very powerful role” for women in Ukraine.

“She is my love. But she is my greatest friend,” he added. “Olena really is my best friend. She is also a patriot and she deeply loves Ukraine. It’s true. And she is an excellent mother.”

A version of Olena Zelenska’s interview will be published in Vogue’s October issue.

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