Ukrainian first lady Zelenska addresses Congress: 'Russia is destroying our people'

With Russia’s war in her home country continuing to rage, Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, the wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky, addressed a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday, the third day of her high-profile Washington, D.C., trip.

"I know this is the first time when the wife of the president of a foreign country has the honor to address you within these walls," Zelenska said in remarks translated from her speech, which was delivered in Ukrainian. "This is really important for me and for my country, and today I want to address you as politicians and party representatives as well as mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, daughters and sons.”

Zelenska presented images of young girls and boys killed by Russian missile strikes, including 4-year-old Lisa, whom she had met around Christmas.

"I remember her just like she is here, a cheerful, playful little rascal," Zelenska told Congress. "She is no longer with us. On July 14, Lisa was killed by a Russian missile attack."

An audience listens to Olena Zelenska, as a screen shows the stroller of Lisa, a 4-year-old killed by a Russian missile attack.
The overturned stroller of a 4-year-old killed in Russia's war on Ukraine is shown on a screen behind Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska during her address to members of Congress on Wednesday. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

The first lady also displayed the faces of employees at a Ukrainian shopping mall that was bombed by Russian forces.

"They are no more," she said. "The mall is no more. A Russian rocket burned it down and killed them all."

Since the beginning of the war on Feb. 24, Russia has launched more than 3,000 cruise missiles, Zelenska said.

"But to destroy someone's family, you don't need a missile," she said. "Maybe shrapnel will do it."

The faces of Ukrainian civilian victims of Russian attachs are displayed on a screen behind Olena Zelenska.
The faces of Ukrainian civilians killed in Russia's war are displayed on a screen behind Zelenska during her speech. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

She showed the image of a young boy, 3-year-old Andre, also killed in the war.

“How many children like him are there in Ukraine?” Zelenska asked. “How many families like this may still be destroyed by the war?”

According to the United Nations, more than 5,000 Ukrainian civilians, including more than 300 children, have been killed in Russia's war on Ukraine, which is now in its fifth month.

"Usually, the wives of presidents are exclusively engaged in peaceful affairs, education, human rights, equality, accessibility," Zelenska said. "And maybe you expected from me to speak on those topics. But how can I talk about them when an unprovoked, invasive terrorist war is being waged? Russia is destroying our people."

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska delivers her speech.
Zelenska at the microphone on Wednesday. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

“These are Russia's ‘Hunger Games,’ hunting for peaceful people in peaceful cities of Ukraine,” she added. “They will never broadcast this on their news. That's why I'm showing it to you.”

At the conclusion of her remarks, Zelenska received a long standing ovation from lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Zelenska arrived in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, meeting with various U.S. officials, including President Biden, first lady Jill Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Her speech to Congress came a day after a Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, warned that Russia is "laying the groundwork" to annex additional Ukrainian territory.