“It’s very difficult to hold on for five months,” Zelenska told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “We need to accumulate our strength, we need to save our energy.”
“We cannot see the end of our suffering,” she said.
Russian forces have eliminated most Ukrainian defenses in the Luhansk region and consolidated control of a belt of territory in the south. Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk together make up Ukraine’s Donbas region, an industrial heartland dotted with factories and coal fields that has been home to sporadic fighting since 2014, when Russian-backed separatists seized control of two territories — the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
“We were shocked many times. I don’t know what else the occupiers can shock us with,” Zelenska said.
A family uprooted
The fighting has since moved further from Kyiv, allowing the family to get together — but not for extended periods of time.
Their experience, Zelenska said, is not unique. She estimated that half of all Ukrainian families have been separated by the war.
“Our relationship is on pause, just as it is for all Ukrainians,” she said. “We, just like every 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 remaining — a cupboard.
“I’m like that cupboard in Borodianka,” Zelenska said. “I’m trying to hold on, just like that cupboard.”