“It’s very hard to last five months,” Zelenska told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “We must gather our strength, we must conserve our energy.”
“We cannot see the end of our suffering,” she said.
Russian forces have knocked out most of the Ukrainian defenses in the Luhansk region and consolidated control of a territory belt in the south. Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk make up Ukraine’s Donbas region, an industrial heartland dotted with factories and coalfields that has seen sporadic fighting since 2014, when Russian-backed separatists took control of two territories: the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
“We were often shocked. I don’t know what else the occupiers can shock us with,” Zelenska said.
An uprooted family
The fighting has since moved further from Kiev, allowing the family to come together, but not for long.
Their experience, Zelenska said, is not unique. She estimates that half of all Ukrainian families have been separated by the war.
“Our relationship is on hold, as it is for all Ukrainians,” she said. “We, like any family, are waiting to be reunited, to be together again.”
The image, Zelenska said, showed a series of bombed-out, flattened buildings, with only one thing left: a closet.
“I’m like that closet in Borodianka,” Zelenska said. “I’m trying to hold on, just like that closet.”