Olena Zelenska

Address to the U.S. Congress – July 20, 2022

Olena Zelenska
July 20, 2022— Washington, D.C.
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Good morning.

[translator begins]

Dear Madam Speaker,
Dear members of the U.S. Congress,
Ladies and gentlemen:

I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and address the Congress of the United States of America. I know this is the first time when the wife of the president of a foreign country has the honor to address you within these walls. This is really important for me and for my county.

And today I want to address you as politicians and party representatives, as well as mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, daughters and sons.

I want to address you not as first lady, but as a daughter and as a mother. No matter what possessions and titles we reach in our lives, first of all, we always remain part of our family. We always remain children to our parents, and no matter how old we are, they love us as their children. And we are always parents to our children, and no matter what happens to them, they will always remain our children.

This is the great truth of our life. Our family represents the whole world for us, and we do everything to preserve it. And we are happy when we succeed in it, and we cry when we cannot save it. And we remain completely broken when our world is destroyed by a war, as how thousands of such worlds have been destroyed in Ukraine.

[referencing a video screen behind her] I am waiting for a picture to be demonstrated. This is Liza. I met this girl before Christmas when we were preparing greetings of Christmas…Merry Christmas for children. I remember her just like she is here – a cheerful, playful little rascal.

The other video was made by Liza’s mother, whose name is Iryna. When she took her child to the school and she asked her, “Where are we going, Sweetie?” the daughter calls the names of her favorite teacher. Liza was only four years old. She is no longer with us.

Here is the stroller of Liza’s. On July 14, Liza was killed by a Russian missile attack on our city of Vinnytsia in the center of Ukraine. Twenty-five people were killed, almost 200 injured. Liza’s mother is in serious condition, and for several days nobody dared to tell her that Liza has died.

This is our world. The words, “Where are we going?” have been ringing in my ears for six days ever since it happened.

Usually, the wives of presidents are exclusively engaged in peaceful affairs – education, human rights, equality, accessibility – and maybe you expect it from me to speak on those topics.

But how can I talk about them when an unprovoked, invasive, terrorist war is being waged against my country. Russia is destroying our people.

Here is another rocket launch. Here is the city of Ochakiv in the south of Ukraine. A residential area was hit by a missile.

This girl is Eva. She liked to draw pictures. She was only five. Another Russian missile. Eva was killed along with her grandmother.

These young faces are the faces of employees and visitors of the shopping mall in Kremenchuk. They are no more, and there is no shopping mall because the Russian rocker burned them down and killed them all.

This is a journalist. Her name is Vera. She has worked in the Ukrainian media for 20 years, the last four years in the Ukraine bureau of Radio Liberty. She died in Kyiv from another missile attack.

Since the beginning of the war, Russia has launched over 3,000 different cruise missiles on Ukraine.

But to destroy somebody’s family, you don’t need a missile. Maybe a shrapnel will do it.

This boy's name is Andrei. Fortunately he is alive. He is now in Germany. He is three years old. A few days ago he celebrated his birthday on the 8th of July. You may ask, what is he doing in Germany? He is learning there how to use prosthesis. A three-year-old boy. A Russian plane dropped a bomb on the house where the family of Andrei spent the night. He was there together with his parents and his sister, Anya.

How many children like him are there in Ukraine? How many families like this may still be destroyed by war?

Those are Russia’s Hunger Games – hunting for peaceful people in peaceful cities of Ukraine. They will never broadcast this on their news. That’s why I’m showing it to you here.

Here is the family of a policeman, Oleg Fedko. His father, mother, wife, six-year-old daughter, as well as 1 ½-month old son – all of them were shot by the Russian occupiers in the car when they were trying to evacuate from Nova Kakhovka.

Then I met with Oleg. He told me a terrible story. The adults died right away, while the children, for the next 1 ½ hours were crying in the car until they died. Nobody was allowed to approach them to save them.

Here is Sophia, the girl from Pochaiv, who lost her mother during the occupation and her arm, and now she's suffering from phantom pains.

The family of Olga Sukhenko – she was the village head in Kyiv region who saved her fellow villagers from the Russian invaders until the last and then was killed by Russians, along with her son and husband.

A family from Odessa, three generations of women, were killed by one missile. Valeria Hlodan, her mother and a 3-month-old daughter.

And a 96-year-old, Boris Romanchenko. Can you imagine? This person survived four Nazi concentration camps, including Buchenwald and died in Kharkiv from Russian shell.

So, dear ladies and gentlemen, the American people and American families – the Congress and President Biden have already done a lot to help us to stand up to the enemy and protect millions of Ukrainians. We are grateful, really grateful, that the United States stands with us in this fight for our shared values of human life and independence.

You help us, and your help is very strong. While Russia kills, America saves. And you should know about it. We thank you for that.

But unfortunately, the war is not over. The terror continues. And I appeal to all of you on behalf of those who were killed, on behalf of those people who lost their arms and legs, on behalf of those who are still alive and well, those who wait for their families to come back from the front.

I'm asking for something now I would never want to ask. I am asking for weapons. Weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else's land but to protect one's home and the right to wake up alive in that home.

I'm asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to kill children in their strollers. In order for rockets not to destroy children's rooms and kill entire families.

I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, will be leaving for the traditional congressional recess in a week. And all of you will be able to return to your offices in the fall and probably all of you have already your calendar and schedule for September. This is normal, and it is precisely this normalcy that we Ukrainians are deprived of now.

Will my son be able to return to his school in the fall? I don't know, like millions of mothers in Ukraine. Will my daughter be able to go to university at the beginning of the academic year and experience normal student life? I cannot answer. What should Ukrainian teachers prepare for – to work in classrooms or in bomb shelters?

We would have answers if we had air defense systems. In fact, the answer is right here in Washington, D.C.

America, unfortunately, knows from its own experience what terrorist attacks are and has always sought to defeat terrorists. Help us to stop this terror against Ukrainians, and this will be our joint, great victory in the name of life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness of every person, every family.

This is what I'm asking for and what my husband is asking for. Not as a presidential couple, but as parents and children of their parents. Because we want every father and every mother to be able to tell their child, "Go to sleep peacefully. There will be no more air strikes, no more missile strikes." Is this too much to wish for?

The fact that I am here as the first lady of my country and have this opportunity to talk to you about weapons is the manifestation of the greatest equality. This is equality among free people. People who know what they are protecting. They know what they live for. I hope you heard me today, and I hope that your decisions will be speedy.

Thank you for your attention. Glory to Ukraine.

"Ukraine's First Lady Addresses Congress." C-SPAN video, 14:38. July 20, 2022. https://www.c-span.org/video/?521836-1/ukraines-lady-olena-zelenska-appeals-congress-weapons.