Volodymyr Zelensky’s wife was in Paris. Without an official mandate, she has actively represented her country abroad since the beginning of the war.
Ukraine’s first lady wrapped up a three-day visit to Paris. A seduction operation to collect donations and alert on the situation of his country, at war since February 24 and the Russian offensive. After London, Olga Zelenska, who inaugurated her humanitarian foundation for Ukraine on September 22, was welcomed on Monday December 12 at the Elysee Palace by Brigitte Macron, with whom she maintains a “very special friendship”.
While 40% of the country’s energy infrastructure has been affected by Russian strikes in recent months, Ukraine is entering the winter with a great dependence on military aid, on the one hand, but also humanitarian aid. Since the outbreak of the war, President Zelensky’s wife has taken on this role of informal ambassador with vigor and determination, and is keen to ensure it, all the more so as the Ukrainians are suffering.
One billion euros in secure donations
After an interview on the BFMTV channel on Monday evening, Tuesday began with an international conference in support of Ukraine in the presence of Emmanuel Macron and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky by videoconference, since he is no longer leaving his country. since the outbreak of hostilities. Baptized “Solidarity of the Ukrainian people”, this conference held at the Quai d’Orsay made it possible to secure nearly one billion euros in emergency aid (half of which is intended for the energy sector) in the form donations from various international organizations and other states to help Ukrainians get through the winter.
After federating international aid, and in the same morning, Olena Zelenska continued with a second conference in Bercy, under the aegis of Bruno Le Maire, with 700 French companies. Objective: to ensure the presence of large French groups in the necessary reconstruction of the country after the fighting. At the end of this meeting, nearly 100 million euros in contracts were signed in areas such as the supply of railways, bridges and even seeds.
The financial aspect closed, the two first ladies visited Tuesday afternoon a Parisian school welcoming six of the twenty thousand Ukrainian children integrated into the French education system, with the Minister of Education Pap Ndiaye. “We must be able to maintain the link between Ukraine and our children, because one day they will come back there, I very much hope,” said Olena Zelenska, promising the children that they would eventually return to their country, and insisting as she regularly does on the more humane aspects of war such as the uprooting of the latter, while Moscow denies the very existence of its nation.
At nightfall, head to the prestigious Salle Pleyel, where Marc Ladret de Lacharriere (boss of Fimalac, 28th fortune in France) hosted the Olena Zelenska Foundation gala. Brigitte Macron intervened there to promote the humanitarian action of her counterpart and to recall this special friendship which unites them. The Ukrainian first lady then gave a speech projecting the objectives of this charity tour, in particular the reconstruction of the hospital of Izyoum, whose very recent renovation was devastated by the Russian strikes. With the city now liberated from the invader, the foundation hopes to release 11 million euros to rebuild the infrastructure which radiates in a region of 150,000 inhabitants and now only receives 50 patients in deplorable conditions.
“We can’t hold on to heroism for long,” said Olena Zelenska, after describing the bravery of a doctor who did not leave when Russian troops arrived and continued to manage the half-destroyed hospital pending the return of troops from kyiv. Even if the first lady does not lack examples of the courage of her people, she bluntly reminds us that Ukraine still needs very concrete donations. Slipping that the foundation also finances the organization of distance learning courses for pupils from the more than 300 destroyed schools, she insisted on the need not to abandon Ukrainian youth, who constitute the future of the country.
Welcoming with gratitude the sending of French generators to Ukraine (“your friendship warms our hearts”), the founder of the foundation did not mention Emmanuel Macron’s remarks calling on December 3 to provide “security guarantees to Russia, which greatly angered kyiv, in his speech.
Facing Olena Zelenska in the room, an audience of French politicians bringing together, among others, Roselyne Bachelot and Jean-Michel Blanquer who had supported Ukrainian schools when he was still at National Education at the start of the war, ambassadors and elected officials of the nation, both Ukrainian and French. Intellectuals and personalities from the world of culture were also present, such as Bernard-Henri Levy or Michel Hazanavicius, who took the floor to explain how he has already donated 120,000 euros to the foundation after selling cinema objects. Everyone crowded closer to the Ukrainian delegation, assembled around the Prime Minister and a few members of his government, the ambassador and Nina Gorbachova, director of the foundation and friend of Olena Zelenska.
The two thousand guests then enjoyed a concert by the Dakh Daughters, a punk cabaret group with folk accents. The audience was thrilled when, on the projection behind the group, appeared a mirrored swastika and a Z characterizing the Russian invader, against a backdrop of images of devastated Ukraine. Finally, the assembly chanted in unison “Heroyam slava! ( “ Glory to the heroes”) in response to “Slava Ukraini! ( “ Glory to Ukraine”) launched by the group, using a slogan of the Ukrainian resistance.
A much more confidential setting for the last day of her visit, December 14, at the Ukrainian embassy: at 11 a.m., Olena Zelenska met a small handful of journalists from the national press, including Le Point. While her country has been suffering from the situation for almost a year and the French are now suffering its direct effects through inflation, the first lady took advantage of this informal exchange to sound out her interlocutors, particularly on the perception of their fellow citizens on the dispute.
Between media coverage of conferences and public appearances and an exclusive interview on BFMTV, this “almost ambassador” of Ukraine was also able to defend the cause of her country in France and secure financial support, both for her foundation and for his country.