Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has won his wife over with the help of a VHS copy of an erotic thriller basic instinct, according to a new biography.
The couple met in high school in their hometown of Kryvyi Rih in southeastern Ukraine, but they didn’t start dating until they were in college.
Their courtship began when the comedian who became president approached his future wife Olena Zelenska, formerly Kiyashko, while carrying a copy of the 90s Hollywood hit.
In his book ‘Zelensky’, author and journalist Steven Derix writes that Mr. Zelensky asked if he could borrow the Sharon Stone film. He pretended not to have seen it when he’d seen the racy movie “at least 15 times” before.
But the request gave him a chance to ask for her phone number, the beginning of a bond that has survived for decades, and more recently their country’s deadly invasion of Russia.
The reveal comes when the pair will be cover stars in the October issue of Fashiona move that has received some criticism from American conservatives.
In the Fashion interview, Ms. Zelenska mused on what initially formed a connection between them and concluded that it was humor that built a “mutual chemistry”.
“My jokes don’t always go over well with her,” the president said. “She’s a very good editor.”
Although Mr. Zelensky was more focused on her “eyes and lips” when they first met, it wasn’t long before he fell even harder for Olena as the two started talking.
“That’s when you cross the distance from like to love,” he said. “That’s what happened for me.”
The couple married in 2003 and welcomed daughter Oleksandra a year later.
In 2013, the Ukrainian first lady gave birth to their second child, son Kyrylo.
Like many Ukrainian families, the president has been separated from his children since the war in Ukraine began in February.
Ms. Zelenska has been able to see her children, but admitted that the separation from their father was also difficult for Oleksandra and Kyrylo.
“I don’t even know how I would have survived these months if we had been apart,” she said of her children. “[Zelensky] has a much harder time with this. He suffers. And then my children too, because they can’t see each other.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has so far lasted five and a half months, leaving thousands dead with no clear end in sight.
In an interview with Piers Morgan for talktv, Ms Zelenska said she hopes the challenges of the war will further “unite” the couple.
“I agree with the theory that marriage grows stronger with challenges,” she explained.
“We have become more interested in each other. I think it will be the same story in our case… I wish this challenge would make us more united.”
A version of Olena Zelenska’s interview will be published in the October issue of Vogue. “Zelensky” by Steven Derix is available from Canbury Press.