Who is Olena Zelenska? The writer who became Ukraine's first lady

The first lady of Ukraine has been named Putin's "number two" target.

The first lady of Ukraine has been named Putin's "number two" target.

President Zelenskyy has been universally applauded for his heroic leadership of Ukraine in the week since Vladimir Putin's Russian troops invaded his country.

He has refused to leave the capital city of Kyiv, despite being branded Putin's "number one" target, while "target number two" are his wife and two children. Despite the bounty on her head, Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, has been taking to social media daily to spread hope and broadcast her humanitarian efforts across the capital.

But who is Olena Zelenska?

The 44-year-old grew up in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, where her husband also comes from. She first met Zelenskyy at university, where she was studying architecture and he studied law.

Neither of them went on to pursue careers in their degrees and instead Zelenska turned her attention to script writing for the production company Studio Kvartal 95 co-founded by her husband.

The couple eventually married in 2003 after eight years of dating and welcomed their daughter, Oleksandra, in July 2004 and their son, Kyrylo, in January 2013.

A life on the political world stage was not something Zelenska ever envisioned or yearned for, she told Ukrainian Vogue in 2019 that she is not "the life of the party. I do not like to tell jokes. It’s not in my character.”

A photo posted by on

However, Zelenska had the limelight thrust upon her when her husband decided to run for the presidency, a decision he didn't consult her about and that she found out about on social media. On disovering this, she asked him “Why didn’t you tell me?” to which he replied: “I forgot.”

She told a local TV station how she had "aggresively opposed" her husband's presidential ambitions on account of their life-changing repercussions: “this is a very difficult move; it's not even a project, it's another direction in life,” she said.

“But I found reasons for myself in favour of publicity. One of them is the opportunity to attract people’s attention to important social issues.”

A photo posted by on

Depsite huge risks to her personal safety Olena has not hidden away since Russia invaded her country last week, instead taking to the streets of Kyiv to support and help the huanitarian effort.

In one post she shared a photo of the Ukrainian flag, writing:“I am proud to live with you and in the same country … Today I will not have panic and tears. I will be calm and confident. My children are looking at me, I will be next to them and next to my husband and with you. I love you! I love Ukraine!”

Juliana Piskorz

Juliana Piskorz is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. Over the course of her career she has written for a smorgasbord of magazines and national newspapers including The Sunday Times, Dazed and Confused, the Independent, the Guardian, Refinery29 and The Face among others.

Before going freelance, Juliana was the Digital Editor at the Evening Standard Magazine and a Staff Writer at the Observer Magazine.

Juliana has a partcular interest in art, fashion, travel and the pop culture.