Casting herself as a mother and daughter, Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady, addressed Con
“Russia is destroying our people,” Ukraine’s first lady said in an address to Congress on Wednesday,
one day after meeting with Jill Biden at the White House as their husbands seek to keep the world’s attention on the war ravaging Ukraine and the larger threat posed by Russian aggression.
“An unprovoked invasive terrorist war is being waged against my country,” the first lady, Olena Zelenska, told the gathered lawmakers. “We remain completely broken” when our world is completely destroyed by a war, she said.
She showed photographs of children whose lives were ripped apart by the war. Among them was Sophia, a girl from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, who Ms. Zelenska said had lost her mother and her arm during the war.
“While Russia kills, America saves,” Ms. Zelenska said.
She asked for more air defense systems so that “are kids are not going to be killed.”
Ms. Zelenska’s emotional plea for weapons garnered a 30-second standing ovation from congressional leaders whom she had asked for help before they leave for their August recess. As she exited, several members of Congress offered a handshake.
Representative Bill Pascrell, Democrat of New Jersey, draped a Ukrainian flag around his shoulders and made a peace sign as Ms. Zelenska concluded her speech.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said in a letter to House colleagues before the speech that “the brutality of Russian aggression and the treatment of women and children have horrified the American people, and these crimes have been of particular concern to the women members of Congress.”
The talks between Ms. Zelenska and Dr. Biden on Tuesday came just over two months after the two first met during Dr. Biden’s unannounced visit in western Ukraine. The meetings underscored how the war has dramatically reshaped their roles in recent months.
Ms. Zelenska, 44, who once focused on issues of female empowerment, literacy and culture in Ukraine, has been using her profile to raise awareness about Russian crimes against children and older citizens.
She met her future husband, Volodymyr Zelensky, when they were still students at different universities in their hometown, the industrial city of Kryvyi Rih. She later became a script writer at Kvartal 95, the production company that Mr. Zelensky founded before he traded comic acting for the presidency — and then became a wartime president.
In a post on Telegram, Ms. Zelenska said she was seeking help from the American government and business community for a program to provide prosthetic limbs to Ukrainian children stepped on land mines or were maimed in bombardments.