Olena Zelenska

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Olena Zelenska
Олена Зеленська
Олена Зеленська 2022.jpg
Portrait, 2022
First Lady of Ukraine
Assumed role
20 May 2019[1]
PresidentVolodymyr Zelenskyy
Preceded byMaryna Poroshenko
Personal details
Olena Volodymyrivna Kyiashko

(1978-02-06) 6 February 1978 (age 45)
Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
(now Ukraine)
(m. 2003)
RelativesOleksandr Zelenskyy (father-in-law)
Alma materKryvyi Rih National University
  • Screenwriter
AwardsBBC 100 Women (2022)[2]

Olena Volodymyrivna Zelenska (née Kyiashko;[a] born 6 February 1978) is a Ukrainian screenwriter who is the current First Lady of Ukraine as the wife of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.[3] Zelenska was named by Time as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2023.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Olena Kyiashko was born on 6 February 1978 in Kryvyi Rih.[5][6] She studied at Kryvyi Rih Gymnasium № 95, where she met her future husband, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.[6][7] In 2000, she graduated from Kryvyi Rih Technical University, majoring in “Urban and Construction Management”, receiving a specialist diploma. She also graduated from a music school with a piano class.[8]

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Olena Zelenska at an Eastern Orthodox prayer service in Istanbul on 16 October 2020

In 2003, she and Zelenskyy got married.[9][8] Olena and Volodymyr Zelenskyy are the parents of two children: daughter Oleksandra (born on 15 July 2004) and son Kyrylo (born on 21 January 2013).[9] The family has several pets; two dogs, a cat, a parrot and a guinea pig.[citation needed] Zelenska enjoys sports, likes to read and is a fan of cinematography.[citation needed] The family lives in Kyiv.[10]

Professional activity[edit]

Olena Zelenska has been a scriptwriter for Kvartal 95 since its foundation.[6]

First Lady of Ukraine[edit]

Social initiatives before the full-scale invasion[edit]

Olena Zelenska makes a speech at an annual conference of ambassadors of Ukraine

The social activities of the First Lady of Ukraine before the war had three main directions: the health of future generations, equal opportunities and cultural diplomacy.

Olena Zelenska initiated such projects as the improvement of the school food system[11] and the development of the National Strategy for a safe school environment,[12] the fight against domestic and gender based violence, the barrier-free environment,[13] and the introduction of audio guides in Ukrainian in museums around the world.

On December 3, 2020, the President signed the Decree “On ensuring the creation of a barrier-free space in Ukraine”. At the initiative of the First Lady, the National Barrier-Free Strategy — standards of equal opportunities for all population groups — was adopted, as well as the Action Plan for overcoming barriers — a road map for each department — was developed.[14][15][16]

On January 13, 2020, she became a member of the Development Council of the Mystetskyi Arsenal National Art and Culture Museum Complex.[17]

Olena Zelenska at the Fifth Ukrainian Women's Congress in 2021

On September 11, 2020, at the initiative of the President's wife, Ukraine joined the Biarritz Partnership,[18] undertaking commitments in the areas of gender equality and the development of barrier-free public space.[19]

In 2021, a large-scale reform of school meals took place. A new full-fledged 4-week menu was presented, the modernization of food storage facilities began, and the behavioral communication campaign of UNICEF in Ukraine on healthy nutrition for children and parents was launched.[20][21][22]

As part of the initiative of the First Lady of Ukraine, more than 50 audio guides in the Ukrainian language have already been launched in the best cultural institutions in more than 30 countries.[23] The project started in 2020.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36]

On August 23, 2021, the First Kyiv Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen took place in Kyiv at the initiative of Olena Zelenska.[37] Eleven first ladies from different countries joined the event. The main topic of discussion was the post-COVID reality. At the end of the event, the participants approved a joint declaration.[38]

The purpose of the summits is to unite the first ladies and gentlemen for the purpose of creating an international platform to share experience and implement joint projects for the well-being of people in the world; to discuss the current problems and activities of the first ladies and gentlemen to solve them; to make the voice of every first lady and gentleman more influential.

Activities since the Russian invasion[edit]

After the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zelenska was described as Russia's target number two. In mid-March, she was in Ukraine at an undisclosed location. She released a statement highlighting the names of children killed during the invasion.[39] During the war, her efforts have focused on humanitarian aid, especially the evacuation of children with disabilities through Poland and the importing of incubators to hospitals in warzone areas.[40] Zelenska made her first public appearance since the start of the invasion in a 8 May 2022 meeting with Jill Biden in Uzhhorod. Biden's trip to Ukraine, which coincided with Mother's Day as celebrated in the US and in Ukraine, was not publicly disclosed in advance.[41]

At the initiative of the First Lady, projects in the field of medicine are being developed: evacuation of children with severe cancer diseases abroad with further treatment there, the search for equipment for children's hospitals, in particular, incubators for newborns.[42]

In the humanitarian sphere, Olena Zelenska takes care of sending orphans for a long-term stay abroad. The First Lady also oversees humanitarian aid to family-type orphanages, large families, and elderly people who have remained and live in the liberated territories to reinforce the connection with the Homeland for forcibly displaced people, the First Lady initiated the project “Books without borders”.[43] 260,000 books in Ukrainian were printed for children who left their homes due to Russian aggression and found shelter in 20 countries.[42]

The project “Ukrainian bookshelf” is being carried out under the patronage of the First Lady.[44] It provides for the distribution of Ukrainian literature and its translations in the world's leading libraries. More than 20 countries have already joined the initiative.[42]

In the “Barrier-Free Handbook” launched by the First Lady,[42] a new section has been created with wartime tips and instructions for families with disabilities, the elderly and their loved ones, people with disabilities.[45]

In May 2022, Olena Zelenska initiated the creation of the National Program of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support.[46] The program is designed to help Ukrainians overcome the consequences of the traumatic events of the war.

Olena Zelenska, the US President Joe Biden and the US First Lady Jill Biden, the US Vice President Kamala Harris and the US Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff
Olena Zelenska during a speech to the US Congress
USAID administrator Samantha Power and Olena Zelenska at the USAID HQ in 2022

On 19 July 2022, Zelenska started her visit to the United States.[47] On the first day of the visit, Zelenska met with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Samantha Power, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. On the second day of the visit, she held a meeting with the first lady of the United States, Jill Biden, at the White House.[48] Zelenska was also met on the porch of the White House by US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.[49]

Zelenska also addressed the US Congress on the second day of her visit, becoming the first First Lady of another country to speak before the US Congress. She called for more military aid to the Ukrainian Armed Forces to protect the country from Russian invasion.[50][51]

Zelenska dedicated the beginning of her speech to the families and children impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[48] One of the images included was of a four-year-old Liza Dmytriyeva, who was killed in an air strike in the central-western city of Vinnytsia.[50] Zelenska also showed photos and videos of the victims of the Kremenchuk shopping mall attack and other numerous victims of Russian invasion.[52]

I appeal to all of you on the behalf of those who were killed, on behalf of those people who lost their arms and legs, on behalf of those who are still alive and well and those who wait for their families to come back from the front. I'm asking for something now I would never want to ask. I am asking for weapons. Weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else's land, but to protect one's home and the right to wake up alive in that home.

— Olena Zelenska

During the trip, Zelenska also accepted the Dissident Human Rights Award at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the entire Ukrainian people.[48][53]

On July 23, Ukraine will host the second Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen dedicated to the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine.[54] The event is planned to be held in the format of a telebridge between different countries of the world.[55] Within the Summit, fundraising for C-type ambulance vehicles was announced. USD 6.4 million was raised in total, allowing to purchase 84 ambulance vehicles for the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. These ambulance vehicles are equipped with everything necessary to quickly and safely transport the seriously injured to the hospitals.

In September 2022, Zelenska was present as an invitee to Ursula von der Leyen's third State of the European Union address, where the EU Commission President rendered homage to her courage during the war in Ukraine.[56]

On 19 September 2022, Zelenska attended the state funeral in London of Queen Elizabeth II to pay her respects to the late monarch "on behalf of all Ukrainians".[57]

On 2 October 2022, Zelenska visited Turkey, where she discussed the evacuation of Ukrainian orphans to Turkey with Turkish first lady Emine Erdoğan, met ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and launched the Ukrainian corvette Hetman Ivan Mazepa.[58]

Zelenska was alleged by social media and several news outlets in France to have spent over €40,000 during a shopping spree in Paris, during her visit in December, however these claims proved to be false, and originally circulated by pro-Russia media.[59][60]

Olena Zelenska Foundation[edit]

Hillary Clinton and Olena Zelenska during the presentation of the foundation

On 22 September 2022, Olena Zelenska presented her foundation at a charity evening in New York City during the 77th UN General Assembly.[61]

The Foundation's primary goal is to restore Ukraine's human capital so that every Ukrainian feels physically and mentally healthy, protected, and able to exercise their right to education, work, and build a future in Ukraine.[62]

The Foundation has three key directions: medicine, education and humanitarian aid. Within these areas, it will provide targeted assistance, invest in reconstructing preschool and school education institutions, polyclinics and outpatient clinics, and provide grants for training and scientific developments. The Foundation sees foreign business and other international foundations as its key partners and donors.


Zelenska received ShEO Awards 2022 in the nomination “World Peace”.[63] The award was founded by Wprost, one of the most influential and oldest publications in Poland.

On November 9, 2022, Olena Zelenska was included in the ELLE 100 Women.[64]

Zelenska meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in 2022

On December 6, 2022, the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska received the Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards, presented annually by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security for exceptional leadership in recognizing the exceptional leadership in promoting women’s rights and creating a more peaceful and secure world for all.[65]

She was honored as one of the BBC 100 Women in December 2022.[66]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ukrainian: Олена Володимирівна Зеленська, née Кіяшко
    Russian: Елена Владимировна Зеленская, née Кияшко, romanizedElena Vladimirovna Zelenskaya, née Kiyashko


  1. ^ Екатерина БЕЛОКОНОВА (16 May 2019). "Инаугурация Владимира Зеленского состоится 20 мая". KP.RU – сайт «Комсомольской правды». [KP dot RU] (= the online web site for "Komsomolskaya Pravda Publishing House JSC") (in Russian ... or, in 'some' language that uses a Cyrillic character set). Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  2. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2022: Who is on the list this year?". BBC News. Retrieved 10 December 2022.
  3. ^ "Main facts about Ukraine's next first lady Olena Zelenska". KyivPost. 24 April 2019. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  4. ^ Jill Biden (13 April 2023). "Olena Zelenska". time.com. Time Person of the Year.
  5. ^ "СПІКЕРИ – Олена Зеленська – Перша леді України". Ukrainian Women's Congress. 9 December 2019. Archived from the original on 1 September 2021. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Walker, Shaun (18 June 2022). "Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska on being Russia's target No 2: 'When you see their crimes, maybe they really are capable of anything'". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2022.
  7. ^ "Volodymyr Zelensky".
  8. ^ a b Rose, Hilary (15 March 2022). "Olena Zelenska, Ukraine's shy first lady, steps up". The Times. Retrieved 19 June 2022.
  9. ^ a b "ru:Зеленский Владимир" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2 January 2019. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  10. ^ Carroll, Oliver (19 June 2022). ""Our son wants to be a soldier": an interview with Ukraine's first lady". 1843. The Economist. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  11. ^ Вікторія Коломієць (18 November 2019). "Перша леді вирішила зайнятися реформою харчування у школах". Hromadske.TV. Archived from the original on 1 September 2021. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Как обезопасить школьные столовые: Зеленская приглашает присоединиться к онлайн-обучению" (in Russian). Ukrinform. 20 November 2019. Archived from the original on 24 November 2020. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  13. ^ "Дружина Зеленського запросила українців до розмови" [Zelensky's wife invited Ukrainians to talk] (in Ukrainian). Ukrayinska Pravda. 6 May 2020. Archived from the original on 25 February 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  14. ^ Павло Калашник (6 May 2020). "Дружина Зеленського запросила українців на «велику розмову про безбар'єрність»". hromadske.ua. Archived from the original on 25 February 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  15. ^ "По инициативе Зеленской в «Дії» будет раздел для незащищенных групп населения" (in Russian). Укрінформ. 2 December 2020. Archived from the original on 25 February 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  16. ^ "За ініціативою Олени Зеленської на порталі «Дія» створять новий розділ з послугами для вразливих груп населення". Офіс Президента України. 2 December 2020. Archived from the original on 25 February 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
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  18. ^ "Гендерна рівність: перша леді ініціює приєднання України до ініціативи G7 (фото, відео)". Ukrainian Independent Information Agency. 10 December 2019. Archived from the original on 9 May 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  19. ^ "Уряд підтримав ініціативу Олени Зеленської щодо приєднання України до «Партнерства Біарріц»". Office of the President of Ukraine. 7 May 2020. Archived from the original on 20 January 2021. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  20. ^ Презентовано План заходів з реформування системи шкільного харчування під патронатом Першої леді Олени Зеленської Archived 25 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. — 24 May 2021.
  21. ^ Без цукру, солі та сосисок. Олена Зеленська та шеф-кухар Євген Клопотенко презентували оновлене шкільне меню Archived 26 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine. НВ. — 25 May 2021.
  22. ^ Як зміниться з вересня харчування в школах: розказують Олена Зеленська та Євген Клопотенко Archived 25 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine. 1+1  — 26 May 2021.
  23. ^ "В этом году за рубежом заработали 11 украиноязычных аудиогидов – супруга Президента" (in Russian). Укрінформ. 30 December 2020. Archived from the original on 1 September 2021. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  24. ^ "У Баку запустили аудіогід українською мовою". Gazeta.ua. 25 August 2020. Archived from the original on 9 May 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  25. ^ Дар‘я Харченко (5 June 2020). "В одному з найбільших музеїв Австрії з'явився україномовний гід". НВ. Archived from the original on 21 February 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  26. ^ Костянтин Гончаров (16 September 2020). "Ще один австрійський музей "заговорив" українською мовою (відео)". УНІАН. Archived from the original on 9 May 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  27. ^ Катерина Денісова (27 December 2020). "У римському Колізеї з'явився аудіогід українською мовою". НВ. Archived from the original on 15 February 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  28. ^ Борис Ткачук (27 December 2020). "У римському Колізеї аудіогід тепер можна послухати й українською мовою". hromadske.ua. Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  29. ^ Юлія Каранковська (17 October 2020). "Повторила образ: Олена Зеленська зустрілася з першою леді Туреччини". ТСН. Archived from the original on 23 February 2021. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  30. ^ "В Морском музее Черногории появился аудиогид на украинском" (in Russian). Укрінформ. 22 December 2020. Archived from the original on 1 September 2021. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  31. ^ "The presidential couple visited Mount Vernon where Olena Zelenska presented a Ukrainian-language audio guide". President of Ukraine – Official website. 1 September 2021. Archived from the original on 1 September 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  32. ^ "Володимир і Олена Зеленські презентували українськомовний гід в Музеї Джорджа Вашингтона". Ukrinform. 1 September 2021. Archived from the original on 4 October 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  33. ^ "Olena Zelenska initiates signing of memorandum on creation of Ukrainian-language audio guides with Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco". President of Ukraine – Official website. 3 September 2021. Archived from the original on 6 September 2021. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  34. ^ "Спорт-шик. Олену Зеленську розкритикували за кросівки у Версалі". NV. 19 April 2021. Archived from the original on 18 February 2022. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  35. ^ Uliana Kupnovytska (19 May 2021). "Леді Зе. Як Олена Зеленська справляється з обов'язками першої леді". Focus. Archived from the original on 4 October 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  36. ^ Ksyusha Savoskina (26 June 2021). "Перша леді країни. Чим займається дружина президента Олена Зеленська". Hromadske. Archived from the original on 4 October 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
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  40. ^ Amanpour, Christiane; Lyons, Emmet (13 April 2022). "'The number one target is all of us'". CNN. Archived from the original on 14 April 2022. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  41. ^ Detrow, Scott (8 May 2022). "Jill Biden visits Ukraine, making her first solo trip to a combat zone as first lady". NPR. Archived from the original on 9 May 2022. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  42. ^ a b c d "In Year-End Interview Olena Zelenska Talks About Her Work During The War". kyivpost.com. KyivPost. 1 January 2023.
  43. ^ "Books without borders: literature in Ukrainian for children abroad". visitukraine.today. 5 August 2022.
  44. ^ "Ukrainian Bookshelf opens in 18 countries". president.gov.ua. Office of the President of Ukraine. 10 December 2022.
  45. ^ "Olena Zelenska presented the "Barrier-Free Handbook" at the Frankfurt Book Fair". president.gov.ua. Office of the President of Ukraine. 23 October 2022.
  46. ^ "UNICEF and Ukraine's First Lady unite experts to support children's mental health". UNICEF. 31 October 2022.
  47. ^ ""Для мене це був іспит, я його склала": Олена Зеленська про історичний візит до США". 24tv.ua. Channel 24. 21 July 2022.
  48. ^ a b c Amy B Wang (20 July 2022). "Ukraine's first lady asks Congress for more arms to counter Russia". The Washington Post.
  49. ^ Viktoria Hordiyenko (20 July 2022). "Перша леді України зустрілася з президентом США Байденом і його дружиною у Вашингтоні (фото, відео)". unian.ua. UNIAN.
  50. ^ a b "Ukraine war has made my son want to be a soldier – Zelenska". bbc.com. BBC News. 20 July 2022.
  51. ^ Dan Bilefsky, Stephanie Lai, Jim Tankersley (20 July 2022). "Ukraine's first lady tells the U.S. Congress that 'Russia is destroying our people.'". The New York Times.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  52. ^ "Ukraine's first lady appeals to members of Congress for continued support in fight against Russian invasion". news.yahoo.com. Yahoo! News. 20 July 2022.
  53. ^ Viktoria Hirko (20 July 2022). "Уперше відзначили народ: українці отримали премію Dissident Human Rights Award". fakty.com.ua. Fakty ІCTV.
  54. ^ Lyse Doucet (24 November 2022). "Olena Zelenska: We will endure". bbc.com. BBC News.
  55. ^ "Remarks by President Michel at the Second Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen on Ukraine and the World". consilum.europa.eu. European Council. 23 July 2022.
  56. ^ "2022 State of the Union Address by President von der Leyen". ec.europa.eu. European Commission. 14 September 2022.
  57. ^ "Ukraine's first lady attends funeral of Queen Elizabeth II as war rages in her country: "She wished us better times"". CBS News. 19 September 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  58. ^ "First Lady holds number of meetings during her visit to Republic of Turkey". Presidential Office of Ukraine. 2 October 2022. Retrieved 28 November 2022.
  59. ^ "Fact Check-Image of Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska wearing luxury brands is altered". Reuters. 23 December 2022. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  60. ^ Cole, Brendan (21 December 2022). "Fact Check: Did Zelensky's wife go on $40K shopping spree in Paris?". Newsweek. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  61. ^ Francisco Salazar (27 September 2022). "Metropolitan Opera Hosts Olena Zelenska's Foundation Event". operawire.com.
  62. ^ "Олена Зеленська презентувала благодійну Фундацію у Нью-Йорку: фото образу першої леді". Channel 24. 23 September 2022.
  63. ^ "Ołena Zełenska dziękuje redakcji "Wprost". "Chcę podzielić się tą nagrodą ze wszystkimi ukraińskimi kobietami"". wprost.pl (in Polish). Wprost. 22 June 2022.
  64. ^ "Олена Зеленська увійшла до 100 найвпливовіших жінок за версією редакторів ЕLLE". elle.ua (in Ukrainian). ELLE. 9 November 2022.
  65. ^ Olafimihan Oshin (30 November 2022). "Hillary Clinton to honor Ukrainian first lady, Nobel Peace Prize co-winner". thehill.com. The Hill.
  66. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2022: Who is on the list this year?". BBC News. Retrieved 10 December 2022.

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by First Lady of Ukraine
Current holder