Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska Speaks During Frankfurt

In News by Porter Anderson

The Ukrainian first lady will appear in a digital discussion with Brigitte Huber, seen at Frankfurt’s Congress Center in Harmonie Hall.

The Ukrainian first lady, Olena Zelenska, spoke to Ukrainian refugee children in August at a British Library reception for a program to donate 16,000 Ukrainian-language children’s books. Image: Publishers Licensing Services

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

A Weekend Event, Open to the Public
Just days after learning that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, will be seen in a recorded video speech at Frankfurter Buchmesse on October 20—in cooperation with the  Federation of European Publishers in Brussels—we today (October 12) have word that Zelensky’s wife Olena Zelenska is also expected to be seen during the book fair.

Zelenska is to be a guest in the Brigitte Live “Exciting Conversations” series on Frankfurt Saturday, October 22, at 5:30 p.m. CEST. Like her husband’s appearance earlier in the week, this is a program open to the public and set in Messe Frankfurt’s Congress Center’s capacious Harmonie Hall.

In a live digital transmission, Zelenska is to be interviewed by Brigitte editor-in-chief Brigitte Huber and Meike Dinklage, the show’s head of current affairs. The conversation will also be viewable in the show’s live steam.

Zelenska and her husband met at university and married in 2003, the same year she became a script writer at the television production company Kvartal 95 Studio. There, she was on a team that wrote comedic sketches in which Volodymyr Zelensky performed. Like her mother, the first lady has a background in engineering.

Zelenska was engaged in mid-August in an event at the British Library in London, appearing digitally at a celebration of a donation of 16,000 Ukrainian-language books for young readers in the United Kingdom. That program, with young Ukrainian refugees as its beneficiaries, was led by the UK’s Publishers Licensing Services (PLS), collective licensing agency Publishers’ Licensing Services (PLS), and the printing firm Halstan.

The first lady has devoted time—since the February 24 start of Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine—to efforts to get psychological therapy quickly to Ukrainians suffering under the violence, and she has also worked on training for first responders. She’s interested in accessibility, and has a handbook that’s to be presented during Frankfurter Buchmesse. Reportedly, she has worked to see children with disabilities evacuated through Poland during Putin’s lethal war on the nation.

‘The Middle Ages’

By most accounts, Olena Zelenska’s first internationally reported appearance after the start of the Russian forces’ aggression, was in May, when her American counterpart, the first lady Dr. Jill Biden, made an unannounced visit to the city of Uzhhorod in western Ukraine to make a Mother’s Day appearance with Zelenska. An account of their meeting can be read here, from Axios’ report in May.

In perhaps her highest-profile appearance to date, Zelenska spoke with Scott Pelley earlier this month, in an October 2 60 Minutes interview for CBS News. Zelenska told Pelley in that interview that the Russians “try to frighten people to make them run, to have towns and villages empty so they can occupy these territories. Definitely, terrorism. The war is being waged using modern means, but from the moral and ethical point of view, [it’s] the Middle Ages.”

Brigitte Huber

In a prepared quote for today’s announcement of the coming Brigitte Live appearance coordinated with Frankfurt, Brigitte Huber is quoted, saying, “We’re looking forward to a special conversation with Ms. Zelenska, which will of course not only deal with her book, but also with politics, the war, and the events of the last few months.”

Prior to the opening of Putin’s belligerence, Zelenska reportedly inaugurated an effort to promote the Ukrainian language, especially in supporting Ukrainian as a language offered in major museums’ audio guides.


Follow our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing players and international industry reactions. More on the Ukrainian Book Institute is here. And more on book charity programs is here.

More on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on this year’s Guest of Honor Spain is here, more on guest of honor programs and markets is here, and more on international book fairs is here. More on the Volodymyr Zelensky speech during Frankfurt, with information on more Ukraine-related events at the fair, is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.