IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska said war has made her young son want to become a soldier

"The only thing he wants to do is martial arts and how to use a rifle," Zelenska said.
Get more newsLiveon

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska said Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has affected her own family, causing her young son to lose interest in past hobbies and pushing him to want to become a soldier.

In an exclusive interview Wednesday with NBC News, Zelenska said she can’t get her 9-year-old son to return to “doing arts and humanities.”

“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,” Zelenska told NBC News’ Peter Alexander through a translator. Now, she said, “the only thing he wants to do is martial arts and how to use a rifle.”

Zelenska spent the day Wednesday with U.S. officials, sharing her country’s plea for more weapons to push back Russia’s invasion. She met with congressional leaders to make the ask on behalf of her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who remains in Ukraine as the country enters its fifth month of war after Russia’s invasion.

In her message to Congress, she described a fear, sense of danger and preoccupation with the war that has gripped Ukrainians and highlighted her desire for children to be able to again find normalcy.

“And 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,” she told Alexander.

Since Sunday, Zelenska has met with several American officials, including first lady Jill Biden, with whom she first met on the Ukrainian border on Mother’s Day, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

On Wednesday, she stood in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center auditorium to emphasize her country’s need for more military equipment.

“I’m asking for something now I would never want to ask,” Zelenska told members of Congress. “I’m 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.”

To highlight that need, Zelenska started her speech with a presentation filled with photos of Ukrainian children killed in Russia’s invasion and said she was “asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to kill.”

The U.S. is preparing to send four more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems to Ukraine, which have greatly expanded the country’s missile range. That brings the total number of U.S.-provided truck-mounted long-range rocket launchers to 16.

In her speech, Zelenska emphasized that these contributions mean that “while Russia kills, America saves.”