Lesia Vasylenko is coming to terms with her country’s new reality.
“There we go,” the Ukrainian member of parliament tells CNN as the air raid sirens sound across Kyiv’s morning sky. “That sort of disturbs your day, but you learn to live with it.”
Vasylenko wanted to meet at Maidan Square, where pro-European Ukrainian activists stood up for their rights in 2014 and forced pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country.
Today, the mother of three is adamant that Russia will never take the nation’s capital. We ask if she has a message for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We say to him (that) life goes on, we carry on living. Your war, your fighting against us is in the background now — and we’ll go on fighting it for as long as we have to, but we’ll go on living at the same time,” she says.
That fight includes her own AK-47, and a pistol she holds close to her heart.
On Twitter, where she has built a large following, she posts pictures of everyday life.
“New kind of weekend fun,” she captions alongside an image from shooting practice.
Another post reads, “Parliament still works…Even in war we intend to keep democracy working.”
Vasylenko takes us to a café-turned-war canteen, where volunteers are churning out 600 meals a day for the army, territorial defense, hospitals and shelters.
As we scroll through pictures of her three children, it becomes clear that that staying on the front line comes at a huge personal cost. A few weeks ago she sent her kids away for their safety.
Speaking about her youngest child, who will be 10 months in a couple of days, she says, “She’s sort of looking at me like ‘really, Mommy? Really, you’re going to be away from me?”
But Vasylenko remains steadfast in her decision to stay – it’s her duty, she says.
On Wednesday, she will travel to France as part of the effort to make Ukraine’s case to the world.
“I am where I have to be. Things happened for a reason, I am a firm believer in that, there’s a reason why I was elected in 2019,” Vasylenko says. “We have a task, we have a duty we will complete it then we will see where life takes us.”
Watch CNN’s interview with Vasylenko: