Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wife shared a moving but mournful birthday message to her husband amid the ongoing war with Russia.
“You smile much 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 message with a grinning photo of the couple, who met as teenagers.
“I wish you to have more reasons for smiling. And you know what it takes. We all do,” she continued.
Zelenska’s tribute comes as Ukraine nears one year of war with Russia.
While the conflict’s exact death toll cannot be confirmed, the United Nations recently estimated that civilian casualties in Ukraine have surpassed 7,000 — and are likely far greater.
Also on Wednesday, President Biden said the United States will send Ukraine 31 M1 Abrams tanks — a reversal from a previous announcement that the provision “just doesn’t make sense.”
Zelenska, 44, was formerly a comedy writer and has been a key figure in the Ukrainian war effort.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, she was pictured wiping her eyes while speaking about a helicopter crash outside Kyiv that killed 14, including Ukraine’s interior minister.
“Unfortunately it’s just another horrible day for Ukraine,” she said.
“From the outside, it may seem that we must be used to it by now, but unfortunately we are not.”
Months earlier, during an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Zelenska urged Americans to keep up their support for Ukraine.
“Please never stop your support — it’s crucially important for us, it’s vital,” she implored.
Zelenska, who shares two children with Zelensky, has also been open about the war’s impact on her family life.
“He’s having a much harder time in this 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 anxiety over his family’s safety.
“I didn’t want them to be put in danger. It’s not about romance. It’s about horrors that were happening here in Kyiv’s outskirts and all those horrors that are happening now in our country, in occupied territories,” the former comedian said.