The Ukrainian people stand strong because people like President Volodimir Zelensky, his wife and their children stayed in Kyiv after the Russian invasion “to resist the ruthless face of evil”.

“You have given the people courage and hope,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Olena Zelenska at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The wife of Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky attended the annual State of the Union address as a guest of honour.

“It takes immense courage to oppose President Putin,” said von der Leyen. “That courage pays off. We thank you for that.” For the occasion, she was dressed in a blue-yellow combination, the colours of the flag of Ukraine; Zelenska in the white of innocence. Von der Leyen spoke of “a nation of heroes”.

The German announced that the EU is allocating 100 million euros to help children in Ukraine in the new school year. “Half a million children go to school in the EU. But many children left behind in Ukraine don’t have a classroom to go to. So the future of Ukraine starts in the schools.”

“I’ve heard that parents send their children to school not only with a lunch box but also with an emergency kit,” said von der Leyen, herself a mother of seven. An emergency kit with extra clothes and plasters, for example. “Can you imagine that? You’re not sure if you’ll see your child again at the end of the day.”

Von der Leyen also announced that she would travel to Kyiv on Wednesday to meet President Zelensky. The speech in parliament was interpreted directly into Ukrainian as the only non-EU language.

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