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Ukrainian first lady requests additional military aid in speech to U.S. lawmakers

Ukrainian first lady Olea Zelenska spoke in person to members of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.

Addressing lawmakers in Ukrainian at the Capitol Visitors Center Auditorium, Zelenska expressed her gratitude for American support "in this fight for our shared values" and requested additional military aid. She also showed pictures of children who had been killed in Russian missile attacks and described the ongoing invasion as "Russia's Hunger Games, hunting for peaceful people in peaceful cities of Ukraine."

Zelenska, born Olena Kiyashko in 1978, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met as children but did not become close until university. They married in 2003 after dating for eight years. While Volodymyr worked as an actor, Olena would write comedy sketches for his troupe to perform. Last month, she told The Guardian that their home life is characterized by "endless jokes," but while Olena sometimes "get[s] tired of this messing about," Volodymyr "never does." The couple have two children together.

As first lady, Zelenska has addressed issues including school nutrition reform, gender equality, and the availability of Ukrainian-language audio guides at tourist sites around the world. In August 2021, she organized the first Kyiv Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen, which drew representatives from Brazil, Israel, Costa Rica, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Germany, Croatia, and Lebanon. Hillary Clinton, the former first lady of the United States, also attended the summit.