Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska appeared on U.S. TV program 60 Minutes to discuss the situation in her war-torn country.

Olena Zelenska appeared on CBS TV’s flagship 60 Minutes program on Sunday, Oct. 2. The program was recorded at an undisclosed location in Ukraine by anchor Scott Pelley. The veteran journalist asked the First Lady how her country had been affected by the tragedy of this war.

“Half the country’s families have been separated,” Zelenska said, speaking in Ukrainian. “Some are at the front, some went abroad to save their children, some are under [Russian] occupation. People are afraid to leave their homes because of shelling. They’re afraid even to try to evacuate. We have thousands of dead. Hundreds of children are dead.”

One of the most significant changes is people’s loss of any sense of peace, she said. “It’s very hard to live with a feeling of constant threat. Nobody anywhere can feel totally safe because at any moment there can be an air raid. A rocket might come and you don’t wake up out of bed.”

Wearing a high-collared cream-colored blouse with a white jacket, Zelenska maintained a solemn demeanor as she recounted anecdotal tragedies, such as an ordeal experienced by a young girl by the name of Sasha to get a prosthetic arm to replace the arm she lost when her home was shelled.

She signed at some moments, appearing weary. She seemed to be containing her emotions, which ranged from disbelief to sorrow, at times even verging on anger.

“What are we wasting? We’re wasting the time of our normal lives. This isn’t a normal life – not for adults, not for children. We don’t want to raise our children in these conditions.”

Pelley also asked how Ukrainians are educating their children.

“Around 3,500 schools will operate online only,” she replied, “because schools cannot receive students and because their parents are afraid to send their children to school. The children went to school this year… and the first thing they learn [is] where the bomb shelter is, how to get there and what to do in case a missile strikes.”

She said that it seemed to her as though the whole country was living in a perpetual Feb. 24, the first day of the full-scale invasion. She calls it “unequivocal terrorism,” and points out how observers have been saying that wars now are not like they were historically. “Now it’s always some sort of hybrid. And that to me is the most frightening. War is waged with new technologies, but from an ethical point of view [the Russians] are behaving like in the middle ages … torture, filtration camps … I think the word ‘war’ has become stale. We need to find a new word for these actions.”

Asked whether she was worried about the collective traumatization of an entire generation, she responded emphatically. “Definitely,” and spoke of a national mental health program she was initiating.

Despite her soft-spoken eloquence, she appeared at a loss for words at times. “It’s not even an offense … I don’t know if we can forgive this. I don’t think it’s possible for us to forgive.”

Asked if she was stronger than she thought she was, Zelenska said, “Everybody has become stronger. I’m not unique. You survive, and going through trials you automatically become stronger. So yes, we’re getting stronger. But will that help us? I hope so.”

The full video can be seen here.

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