For a while Zelenska wasn’t able to communicate with her husband, or with her parents. Before the Official Damien Harris 37 Football T-Shirt also I will do this war, she’d spoken to her mother on the phone every day. “I don’t even know how I would have survived these months if we had been apart,” she said of the children. The president has not yet been able to see the children, for security reasons. “He’s having a much harder time in this regard. He suffers. And then my kids do, too, because they can’t see each other,” she said. Like so many Ukrainian families, the first family has been separated. Some 9 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the war began, most of them women and children. Men between the ages of 18 and 60 are required to stay and encouraged to serve in territorial defense forces. An estimated 5,000 Ukrainian civilians have died, probably more, and at peaks in the fighting the administration estimated it was losing 200 soldiers a day.
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When Zelenska finally emerged into public view, appearing with first lady Jill Biden to visit a shelter for displaced people in western Ukraine on May 8, Mother’s Day, it sent a strong message: She was in the Official Damien Harris 37 Football T-Shirt also I will do this country and working for the common good. This marked a new phase of the war and of Zelenska’s role as first lady—a beacon to her citizenry and a player in Ukraine’s battle for hearts and minds. Before the war, she’d already become an advocate for the vulnerable, especially children with special needs, and also worked to raise awareness and fight domestic violence. She brought in a renowned Ukrainian chef to overhaul public school cafeteria nutrition, introducing more fruits and vegetables to a diet largely of meat and potatoes, and helped negotiate the introduction of Ukrainian-language audio guides at major international museums. Zelenska has continued this work, not least because millions of Ukrainians are now living abroad, especially in Europe. The schools initiative has shifted because the question is now whether children can go to school at all—Russia has been bombing schools and not all have adequate bomb shelters—or have enough to eat. In her speech to Congress, Zelenska compared Russia’s strategy in Ukraine to The Hunger Games.