Five months of war forced Ukrainians to adjust their expectations. After preparing for a conflict that they thought was a sprint, many are now grappling with the likelihood of a “marathon,” said Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady.
“It’s very difficult to last five months,” Zelenska told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “We need to accumulate our strength, we need to save our energy.”
“We cannot see the end of our suffering,” she said.
Zelenska spoke to CNN at a crucial moment in the fight. Although Kiev won a string of initial victories shortly after Russia’s invasion, the tide appears to be turning in the Kremlin’s favor, especially in the east.
Russian forces eliminated most Ukrainian defenses in the Luhansk region and consolidated control of a belt of territory in the south. Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk together form Ukraine’s Donbas region, an industrial hub dotted with factories and coal fields that has been home to sporadic fighting since 2014, when Russian-backed separatists seized control of two territories – the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. and Luhansk People’s Republic.
Zelenska’s husband, President Volodymyr Zelensky, told leaders of the G7 – groups of the seven largest industrial democracies – on Monday that he wants to end the war in Ukraine early next year.
For now, fighting continues in the east, with missiles hitting targets across the country — including a shopping mall where at least 1,000 people were inside when the airstrike siren sounded. At least 18 people died and dozens remain missing.
Like her husband, Zelenska called the attack “terrorism”. While she said she was “shocked” by the incident, she explained that she was exasperated at how many times the Russian military’s methods had left her speechless.
“We were shocked many times. I don’t know what else the occupiers can shock us with,” Zelenska said.
a separate family
Zelenska said that she and her children did not see Zelensky for two months into the war. During the early days of the war, the president lived in her office and her family was banned from staying there to keep them safe.
Since then, fighting has moved away from Kiev, allowing the family to reunite – but not for long periods of time.
Their experience, Zelenska said, is not unique. She estimated that half of all Ukrainian families were torn apart by the war.
“Our relationship is on hold, just like for all Ukrainians,” she said. “We, like all families, are waiting to be reunited, to be together again.”
Zelenska said she and others are trying to deal with the situation by “trying to find joy in simple things,” even if they are fleeting. She compared herself to a photograph in the town of Borodianka, a town east of Kiev occupied by Russian forces in the early days of the war.
The image, Zelenska said, showed a series of bombed and razed buildings, leaving only one thing: a closet.
“I’m like that closet in Borodianka,” Zelenska said. “I’m trying to hold on, just like that closet.”
CNN’s Tim Lister contributed to this story
Source: CNN Brasil