Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska said the ongoing war with Russia has stolen her 9-year-old son’s childhood as the boy’s former hobbies have been replaced with aspirations of joining the fight.
“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 Wednesday.
“Now … the only thing he wants to do is martial arts and how to use a rifle,” she said through a translator.
Zelenska said she fears the same can be said for many young boys in Ukraine who “obviously” want to become soldiers themselves as Russia’s invasion has stolen the innocence of many children in her country.
“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 said.
Earlier in the day, Zelenska showed US lawmakers images of Ukrainian youngsters who tragically lost their lives in Russian airstrikes.
“This is Liza. I met this girl before Christmas,” she told members of Congress, remembering the smiling kid as a “cheerful, playful little rascal.”
“Liza was only four years old, she’s no longer with us,” the first lady went on, as horrifying pictures of the child after she was killed by a Russian missile earlier this month were shown on a screen.
Liza is one of more than 5,000 civilians — including several hundred children — who have been killed since the war began on Feb. 24.
On Wednesday, Zelenska implored the lawmakers to boost US support for her war-torn country, where Russian forces continue to slaughter innocent Ukrainians about five months after they first invaded the country.
“I am asking for something now I would never want to ask. I am asking for weapons,” she said. “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.”
Zelenska repeated her husband President Volodymyr Zelensky’s requests for air defense systems to combat Russian missile strikes.
“This is what I’m asking for and what my husband is asking for, not as a presidential couple, but as parents and the children of their parents,” she said. “Because we want every father and every mother to be able to tell their child, ‘Go to sleep peacefully. There will be no more airstrikes, no more missile strikes.’ Is this too much to wish for?”
In the latest upcoming package of military and humanitarian support for Ukraine, the US will be sending four additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, also known as HIMARS, Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin said Wednesday.