As part of her visit to New York on the occasion of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, 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.
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 been presenting such saplings to communities that have survived tragedies and held out. Previously, trees were given to the Norwegian communities of Oslo and Utøya, the Greek city of Marathon and the Bahamas, which were devastated by a hurricane.
“Today, this is Ukraine, which is being ravaged by the Russian horde. Ukraine, in the de-occupied cities of which mass graves with hundreds of tortured people are found. Americans who lost loved ones in that terrible terrorist attack come to the surviving tree. In May, the tree was illuminated in blue and yellow colors as a sign of solidarity with the people of Ukraine. I feel this solidarity and support every moment during the trip. And I am sure that the Ukrainian tree will grow strong roots and bloom 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 landmarks during Russian aggression.
“For six months, we have had more than 500 damaged or destroyed objects of cultural heritage. These are museums, historical buildings, and temples. Everything 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: this is a war against our identity. The Russian occupiers designated our state, history, and culture their enemies. This 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 be on it together with us, just as the free world is now with us on the military front,” urged Olena Zelenska.
The wife of the President announced the start of a global charitable initiative designed 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” was canceled. It was issued by Ukrposhta on the occasion of the philosopher’s anniversary (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 part of the proceeds from the sale of the stamp will be directed to the fund for the restoration of the museum.
On the third day of her visit to New York, Olena Zelenska also met with Professor Hugh Herr, head of the MIT Media Lab’s Biomechatronics group 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. Its inventions are used by the professor himself, who lost his legs 30 years ago during mountain climbing.
The First Lady of Ukraine discussed with Hugh Herr the possibility of such prosthetics 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 events in life, how these events became for them the beginning of their development and the development of technology, give strength to move on. A public speech and a meeting with veterans and civilians will be an incredible opportunity to support the morale and strengthen the resistance of Ukrainians in this war,” she summarized.
In addition, Olena Zelenska held a meeting with General Manager 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 choir and orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera performed the national anthem of Ukraine. In March, the theater officially announced the termination of contracts and the removal of Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko from performances, as she refused to publicly condemn Russian aggression. Her parts were later performed by Ukrainian Liudmyla Monastyrska.
In addition, the wife of the General Manager 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 gave 13 concerts at iconic venues around the world. The financial support of the project was provided, in particular, by Peter Gelb’s personal fundraising work.
Olena Zelenska thanked the couple for their support.
“Ukraine highly appreciates your solidarity,” she assured.
The First Lady discussed further 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: “This is ordering and writing an opera. Such a joint initiative of ours regarding the selection of composers and ordering an opera work may become one of the unique precedents in the opera world. We also propose to start a regular internship program for Ukrainian specialists in the opera field – managers, program directors, prop and costume artists, and technical service workers. This will be an important contribution to the development of the modern opera theater in Ukraine.”