The wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has shared a touching but mournful birthday message to her husband amid the ongoing war with Russia.
“You smile a lot less now,” First Lady Olena Zelenska wrote on Twitter Wednesday in honor of the embattled president’s 45th birthday, his first since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Zelenska accompanied her post with a smiling photo of the couple, who met as teenagers.
“I wish you had more reasons to smile. And you know what it takes. We all do,” she continued.
Zelenska’s tribute comes as Ukraine nears a year-long war with Russia.
Although the exact death toll from the conflict cannot be confirmed, the United Nations recently estimated that civilian casualties in Ukraine have topped 7,000 – and are likely much higher.
Also on Wednesday, President Biden said the United States would send Ukraine 31 M1 Abrams tanks – a reversal from an earlier announcement that the provision “just doesn’t make sense”.
Zelenska, 44, was previously a comedy writer and was a key figure in Ukraine’s war effort.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, she was pictured wiping her eyes as she spoke about a helicopter crash outside Kyiv that killed 14 people , including the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior.
“Unfortunately, it’s just another horrible day for Ukraine,” she said.
“From the outside it might look like we have to be used to it by now, but unfortunately that’s not the case.”
Months earlier, during an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Zelenska urged Americans to maintain their support for Ukraine.
“Please never stop your support – it’s critically important to us, it’s vital,” she implored.
Zelenska, who shares two children with Zelensky, has also been open about the impact of the war on her family life.
“He has a lot more trouble in that regard,” she told Vogue of her husband last summer, noting that the couple’s children cannot see their father due to unspecified security concerns. .
Zelensky, who was recently named TIME’s Person of the Year, also told the outlet about his concern for his family’s safety.
“I didn’t want them to be endangered. It’s not about romance. It’s about the horrors that were happening here in the outskirts of Kyiv and all those horrors that are happening now in our country, in the occupied territories,” the former comedian said.