Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska covers digital issue of Vogue

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Ukraine First Lady Olena Zelenska covers digital issue of Vogue (Vogue/Annie Leibovitz)
Ukraine First Lady Olena Zelenska covers digital issue of Vogue (Vogue/Annie Leibovitz)

Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska has appeared on a special digital cover issue of Vogue, in which she opened up about her marriage, her role, and the toll of Russia’s war on her country.

The cover, which features Ms Zelenska sitting on marble steps inside the “heavily guarded” presidential office compound in Kyiv, Ukraine, dressed casually in black pants and a white button down, was photographed by Annie Leibovitz. The Vogue profile also includes photos of the first lady and her husband, President Volodymyr Zelensky.

For the accompanying profile, Rachel Donadio interviewed Ms Zelenska, who spoke through a translator, about the war’s toll on Ukraine’s citizens and her own family.

“These have been the most horrible months of my life, and the lives of every Ukrainian,” she said. “Frankly, I don’t think anyone is aware of how we have managed emotionally.”

Ms Zelenska also took the opportunity to share the confidence she feels in a Ukrainian victory over Russia. “We’re looking forward to a victory,” she said, while revealing that she is inspired by her fellow Ukranians. “We have no doubt we will prevail. And this is what keeps us going.”

The magazine also features Ms Zelenska photographed standing among female Ukrainian soldiers at Antonov Airport, in Hostomel, and alongside her husband, with the pair seen holding hands atop a wooden table. President Zelensky is seen dressed in his ubiquitous T-shirt.

Another photo sees the Ukrainian president holding his wife, who wore Ukrainian designers such as Bettter, Six, Hvoya, The Coat, Kachorovska, and Poustovit for the cover, closely against him. “Of course she is my love. But she is my greatest friend. Olena really is my best friend,” he told Donadio.

Elsewhere in the interview, the first lady opened up about the impact of the war on their own family, with Ms Zelenska admitting that she doesn’t know how she would have been able to survive if she had been apart from the couple’s children, Oleksandra, 18, and Kyrylo, nine.

“I don’t even know how I would have survived these months if we had been apart,” she said, while acknowledging that it has been especially hard on her husband, who has not been able to see the children for security reasons. “He’s having a much harder time in this regard. He suffers. And then my kids do, too, because they can’t see each other.”

Ms Zelenska also shared the pressure she’s under in her role as first lady, both before the war and since it started in February. She divulged that she didn’t want her husband to run for president because she felt their life “would change quite radically”. When he won, she said she found “moving into the limelight” to be “quite difficult” as she preferred being “backstage”.

The first lady was also aware of the work that would come with her husband’s role in office. “I knew there was going to be a lot of work for me, and I was right,” she said.

However, nothing could have prepared her for Russia’s invasion of the country, and the “burden of responsibility” that she has felt since.

“We were living happy lives and we never thought this would happen,” she said, while admitting that she feels “isolated” as she can’t “freely visit what I want to”. “But we have hope,” she said.

“It’s a difficult task because you feel this burden of responsibility constantly,” she said.

The Ukrainian president also acknowledged the important role his wife has taken on since the start of the war, telling Vogue: “I can do it for one part of our people, for a significant part. But for women and children, my wife being here sets an example. I believe that she plays a very powerful role for Ukraine, for our families, and for our women.”

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