Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is being honored by his wife Olena Zelenska.
Zelenska, 44, shared a 45th birthday tribute to her husband of nearly two decades Wednesday and sought to capture the bittersweet nature of the milestone amid the country’s ongoing war with Russia.
“I am often asked about how you have changed this year,” the first lady of Ukraine wrote on Twitter. “And I always answer: ‘He haven’t changed. He is the same. The same guy I have met when we were seventeen.’ But actually, something has changed: you smile much less now.”
“I wish you to have more reasons for smiling,” she continued alongside a photo of the pair enjoying a happy embrace. “And you know what it takes. We all do. You are stubborn enough.”
In a nod to the ongoing importance of Zelenskyy’s leadership of Ukraine during its dark days, Zelenska added that her main wish for was him to remain fit and well.
“The main thing is to have enough health,” she added. “So please, be healthy! I want to smile near you forever. Give me this opportunity.”
I am often asked about how you have changed this year. And I always answer: “He haven’t changed. He is the same. The same guy I have met when we were seventeen.”
But actually, something has changed: you smile much less now. For example, like on this photo… 1/2 pic.twitter.com/fBUFXkFCIR
— Олена Зеленська (@ZelenskaUA) January 25, 2023
In the eleven months since the war started in Ukraine, Zelenska has played a leading role in sustaining the Ukrainian war effort. In July, the former comedy writer told Vogue that she prefers “being backstage” and that “moving into the limelight was quite difficult.” Yet it is something she has continued to do for the sake of her country and her husband — who was named Time’s 2022 Person of The Year in December.
“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,” Zelenskyy told Vogue of his wife’s important role in the conflict, which has included spearheading an initiative to train first-responders and mental health practitioners to provide psychological trauma care.
“I believe that she plays a very powerful role for Ukraine, for our families, and for our women,” added Zelenskyy.
As parents to two children, 18-year-old daughter Oleksandra and 9-year-old son Kyrylo, the top priority of both the President and the first lady is preserving the country for the future.
“That’s what I really want to ensure, is that the childhood of my son is given back to him and that he enjoys his life to the fullest,” Zelenska told NBC News in July.
“Before the war, my son used to go to the folk dance ensemble. He played piano. He learned English. He of course attended sports club,” she added.
Now, like most boys in Ukraine, “the only thing he wants to do is martial arts and [learn] how to use a rifle,” she continued.