Ukraine’s first lady tells the U.S. Congress that ‘Russia is destroying our people.’

Ukraine’s first lady addressed the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, asking for more weapons to defend against what she called the “Russian hunger games” killing children and ripping apart families.

“I want to address you not as a first lady but as a daughter and a mother,” Olena Zelenska, told the lawmakers.

“An unprovoked invasive terrorist war is being waged against my country,” she added. “Russia is destroying our people.”

In a rare appearance by a foreign first spouse before Congress, Ms. Zelenska showed photographs of children whose lives had been destroyed by the war. Among them was Sophia, a girl from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, who Ms. Zelenska said had lost her mother and her arm during the war.

Ukraine’s first lady met her future husband, Volodymyr Zelensky, when they were still students at different universities in their hometown, the industrial city of Kryvyi Rih. She later became a script writer at Kvartal 95, the production company that Mr. Zelensky founded before he traded comic acting for the presidency — and then became a wartime president.

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ms. Zelenska, 44, focused on issues of female empowerment, literacy and culture in Ukraine. But the war has since thrust her into the global spotlight. In recent weeks, she has stepped forward more on social media, and has used her profile to raise awareness about Russian crimes against children and older citizens.

During her speech she also described a 4-year-old girl killed in Vinnytsia, in a missile attack in the central Ukrainian city that killed 25 people; a 5-year-old who died in a shopping mall attack and a 3-year-old boy who lost his legs and is learning to use a prosthesis.

She asked the members of Congress for more weapons, including air defense systems, before they leave for their August recess, so that “our kids are not going to be killed.”

Her emotional plea garnered a 30-second standing ovation from congressional leaders. As Ms. Zelenska exited, several members of Congress offered a handshake.

Representative Bill Pascrell, Democrat of New Jersey, draped a Ukrainian flag around his shoulders and made a peace sign as Ms. Zelenska concluded her speech.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said in a letter to House colleagues before the speech that “the brutality of Russian aggression and the treatment of women and children have horrified the American people, and these crimes have been of particular concern to the women members of Congress.”

Ms. Zelenska’s speech came a day after she met U.S. first lady Jill Biden at the White House. The meeting between the two women, who previously met in May during Dr. Biden’s unannounced visit in western Ukraine, underscored how the war has dramatically reshaped their roles in recent months.

In a post on Telegram, Ms. Zelenska said she was seeking help from the American government and business community for a program to provide prosthetic limbs to Ukrainian children who stepped on land mines or were maimed in bombardments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.