First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska’s recent visit to Georgetown University served as a gesture of gratitude toward the university for its unwavering support and a powerful reminder of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Now more than ever, Georgetown must continue its efforts to support Ukraine in its fight for democracy and freedom.
Zelenska’s visit Thursday, Sept. 21, provided an invaluable opportunity for students to hear from the first lady of Ukraine and gain firsthand information about the ongoing humanitarian crisis following Russia’s 2022 invasion.
In particular, members of the Georgetown Ukrainian Society, including undergraduates like myself, were invited to attend this remarkable event. For us, this was an opportunity to highlight the state of our home country and illustrate the need for continued international support and funding.
We view our first lady as a symbol of Ukrainian resilience and female leadership, and continuing to honor figures, such as Zelenska, empowers all women in the face of conflict.
Zelenska’s speech primarily aimed at increasing awareness of Ukrainian culture on campus. Notably, the “Ukrainian Bookshelf” project, joined by 40 countries, works to transfer the best Ukrainian publications to the world’s leading libraries; as of her visit, a Ukrainian bookshelf is present in Riggs Library.
In her moving address, Zelenska expressed her hope that these books would foster a deeper understanding of Ukraine’s people and their rich cultural heritage at Georgetown. This endeavor is even more significant today, given that it provides a second life for books from Ukrainian libraries destroyed during the invasion.
Beyond the bookshelf, Zelenska’s visit also served as a reminder to the global community to continue its support of Ukraine. As the war nears two years in length, it is easy to forget about the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians who have lost their lives.
As a globally impactful institution, taking time to reckon with the security, humanitarian and economic challenges faced by Ukraine — and all of Eastern Europe — is essential. Part of the Georgetown student experience is acknowledging our obligation to support our international friends.
Zelenska spoke passionately about the unwavering resilience of the Ukrainian people, emphasizing their mutual support amid the constant air raids and destruction. Georgetown must honor and support the people of Ukraine, both at home and dispersed, in our fight against unwarranted violence.
For Ukrainians, the support from international communities, such as Georgetown students, staff and faculty, is crucial. Anyone who is aware of the dire situation in Ukraine has an opportunity and an obligation to help us by remaining dedicated to talking about our nation’s future. Hosting leaders, such as Zelenska, and incorporating Ukrainian culture into facets of campus life is critical for ensuring that Ukraine stays at the forefront of students’ minds.
The first lady also offered a tangible way to support Ukraine by shedding light on the admirable work of the Olena Zelenska Foundation. This foundation focuses on supporting humanitarian and educational initiatives in the war-ravished country. Given the extensive destruction of academic institutions, energy systems, hospitals and homes during the conflict, her foundation provides invaluable civilian assistance.
Everyone is welcome — and encouraged — to donate to the Olena Zelenska Foundation and to contribute to her extraordinary work in providing health care, education and humanitarian aid. Her dedication to the advancement of education, gender equality and human rights reflects the unwavering and spirited commitment of Ukrainians to rebuild their nation in the face of conflict.
We must recognize Zelenska’s visit as a gesture of appreciation to the Georgetown community and as an opportunity to shed light on the ongoing struggles in Ukraine. The first lady has referred to Georgetown as “a true friend,” which educates future leaders and teaches its students to make the world a better place. We must continue to live up to this high praise.
Tanya Tkachenko is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.