The First Lady of Ukraine visited the 9/11 Memorial and the Ukrainian Museum in New York, where she spoke about the state of Ukrainian museum institutions


As part of her visit to New York on the occasion of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska visited the 9/11 Memorial, built on the site of the World Trade Center destroyed by the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.

The President of the Memorial, Alice Greenwald, presented Olena Zelenska with a symbolic gift: a surviving tree. This is a sapling of the Calleri pear tree, which survived the terrorist attack on the territory of the center.

Since 2013, the Memorial has presented such saplings to communities that have survived tragedies and resisted. Previously, trees had been donated to Norwegian communities in Oslo and Utøya, the Greek city of Marathon and the Bahamas, devastated by a hurricane.

“Today, Ukraine is ravaged by the Russian horde. Ukraine, in the unoccupied towns of which there are mass graves with hundreds of tortured people. Americans who lost loved ones in this terrible terrorist attack come to the Survivor Tree. In May, the tree was illuminated in blue and yellow as a sign of solidarity with the people of Ukraine. I feel this solidarity and support every moment of the journey. And I am sure that the Ukrainian tree will grow strong roots and flourish in the liberated country,” said Olena Zelenska.

At the Ukrainian Museum in New York, the First Lady took part in the discussion “Preservation of Ukrainian culture during the war”. Olena Zelenska spoke about the state of Ukrainian monuments during the Russian aggression.

“For six months, we have had more than 500 cultural heritage objects damaged or destroyed. These are museums, historical buildings, temples. Everything that was built and created by generations of Ukrainians. For me, as the First Lady of my country and a citizen of Ukraine, the answer is clear: it is a war against our identity. The Russian occupiers have designated our state, our history and our culture as their enemies. It is a war against Ukrainian culture – past, present and future. So this war also has a cultural front. And I ask you, dear colleagues, to participate in it with us, just as the free world is now with us on the military front”, insisted Olena Zelenska.

The president’s wife announced the launch of a global charity initiative to help Ukraine raise funds for the reconstruction of destroyed cultural institutions.

The first to be restored will be the Hryhorii Skovoroda National Literary and Memorial Museum in the village of Skovorodynivka near Kharkiv, which was destroyed by Russian shelling in May 2022.

In addition, at the Ukrainian Museum in New York, with the participation of Olena Zelenska, the stamp “Garden of Divine Songs. To the 300th anniversary of the birth of Hryhorii Skovoroda » has been cancelled. It was published by Ukrposhta on the occasion of the philosopher’s birthday (this holiday, according to the decision of UNESCO, is celebrated all over the world). At the same time, a special cancellation procedure took place near the Hryhorii Skovoroda Museum in the Kharkiv region. It is expected that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the stamp will go to the museum’s restoration fund.

On the third day of her visit to New York, Olena Zelenska also met with Professor Hugh Herr, head of the Biomechatronics group of the MIT Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The group is the world’s leading developer of high-tech robotic prostheses for people who have lost limbs. His inventions are used by the professor himself, who lost his legs 30 years ago during mountain climbing.

The First Lady of Ukraine spoke with Hugh Herr about the possibility of such prostheses for Ukrainians who lost their limbs as a result of Russian aggression. Olena Zelenska called on the scientist to exchange experiences with Ukrainian doctors and invited him to Ukraine.

“Ukraine is overcoming deep trauma and shock. Examples of how people overcame the worst life events, how these events became for them the beginning of their own development and the development of technology, give strength to move on. A public speech and meeting with veterans and civilians will be an incredible opportunity to boost morale and strengthen the resistance of Ukrainians in this war,” she summarized.

In addition, Olena Zelenska met with the General Director of the Metropolitan Opera Peter Gelb and his wife, conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson.

Since the beginning of the Russian aggression, the theater has supported our country. On March 1, before the evening performance, the Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra performed the national anthem of Ukraine. In March, the theater officially announced the termination of contracts and the withdrawal of Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko from performances because she refused to publicly condemn Russian aggression. Its parts were then interpreted by the Ukrainian Liudmyla Monastyrska.

In addition, the wife of the general director of the Metropolitan Opera created the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, which became a powerful voice of Ukrainian artists. From July 28 to August 20, the team performed 13 concerts at iconic venues around the world. The financial support for the project was notably ensured by the personal fundraising work of Peter Gelb.

Olena Zelenska thanked the couple for their support.

“Ukraine highly appreciates your solidarity,” she assured.

The First Lady discussed the continuation of the work of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra and the development of projects next year.

Several joint projects with the Metropolitan Opera were also discussed during the meeting: “It’s commissioning and writing an opera. Such a joint initiative on our part regarding the selection of composers and the commissioning of an opera work could become one of the unique precedents in the world of opera. We also propose to launch a regular internship program for Ukrainian specialists in the field of opera – managers, program directors, prop and costume artists and technical service workers. It will be an important contribution to the development of modern opera theater in Ukraine.


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