Olena Zelenska meets with First Lady of Federal Republic of Germany Elke Büdenbender
The first ladies of Ukraine and Germany held a working meeting within the framework of Olena Zelenska’s visit to Germany and presented the joint project Better Time Stories. The first ladies said that since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, they are in constant contact and implement many joint projects.
Zelenska thanked her colleague, in particular, for her contribution to providing humanitarian aid for Ukraine in the field of child protection: the first lady of Germany, Elke Büdenbender, facilitated the arrival, treatment and shelter of children with cancer from Ukraine in Germany. In particular, on March 23, 2022, on the joint initiative of First Lady of Poland Agata Kornhauser-Duda and First Lady of Germany Elke Büdenbender 36 children from the orphanage in Stepove, Mykolaiv region were taken by Polish government and transport planes from Poland to the Bonn/Cologne airport. On July 7, 2022, the first ladies of Poland and Germany, Agata Kornhauser-Duda and Elke Büdenbender, jointly visited these children and got acquainted with the conditions of their living in the Christian Youth Recovery Center.
Zelenska also thanked for caring for Ukrainian citizens who found protection in Germany from the war unleashed by Russia. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia, as of October 2022, 1,002,763 refugees from Ukraine have been registered in Germany, the vast majority of whom are women and children. Registered persons are guaranteed free medical care, social benefits, payment for housing and compensation for the costs of its arrangement, education, etc.
“Ukraine is grateful to the Berlin Senate for supporting the pilot project to open a German-Ukrainian school in Berlin. It is important for us that such conditions of education for children are created in Germany, which would support communication and continuation of education of Ukrainian children according to the Ukrainian educational program. We hope that such an approach will be implemented in other German states as well,” Zelenska said.
During the talks with Ms. Büdenbender, she also raised the issue of Germany providing Ukraine with anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense equipment, as well as combat weapons.
“I am forced to raise the topic of providing weapons to Ukraine. This should not be a topic of protocol communication between first ladies. However, in the situation which Ukraine appears, we are forced to use every chance to be heard. It is about saving lives and about human rights. We must close the sky and stop this deliberate missile terror of Russia,” Zelenska added.
Together with the First Lady of Germany, Zelenska took part in the presentation of the Better Time Stories project. This is a non-profit initiative to support Ukrainian children who were forced to leave their homes because of the war. The goal of the project is to help the youngest children (aged 3 to 7 years) overcome sadness, integrate into the environment of the new host country and keep in touch with relatives who stayed at home, thanks to books.
As part of the book project, Ukrainian children who are forced migrants in European countries can receive a set of five illustrated books with available audio versions in the original and translated ones (in Ukrainian and the language of the host country) and with the possibility of recording an individual audio version for each child by their father or other relatives who remained in Ukraine.
The project was initiated by the company Interactive Kids Story (iKs), founded by Ukrainian entrepreneur Andriy Shmyhelskyy, Princess of the Netherlands Laurentien’s Number 5 foundation and First Lady Olena Zelenska.
The initiative is implemented in four countries: Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium. A gift pack of 5 bilingual books for children aged from 3 to 7 can be ordered at bettertimestories.com.
The official international presentation of the project took place on September 29 in The Hague (the Netherlands). In addition to Olena Zelenska and Elke Büdenbender, First Lady of Austria Doris Schmidauer and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands acted as patrons of the project.
“The value of the project is that people who are separated by war, who have not seen each other for a long time and miss each other, can become closer thanks to the book and the voice. The value is to feel a loved one next to you again, to spend time with them doing a cozy family thing – reading. And the value is also in the fact that the project brings cultures together, because in it the books are translated into two languages: Ukrainian and the language of the host country,” Zelenska said.
During the second day of her visit to Germany, Zelenska also met with the president of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Juergen Boos. Zelenska expressed her gratitude to the management of the Frankfurt Book Fair for the comprehensive support of the representation of Ukraine at this prestigious international event, in particular, for the free provision of a stand with an area of 100 square meters, information and technical support.
“This makes it possible to familiarize the professional publishing community, and later readers from different parts of the world, with Ukrainian literature, which in the context of the Russian Federation’s war against our country and the invaders’ efforts to destroy Ukrainian culture and identity becomes of special importance and significance for Ukraine,” the first lady said.