I would first remove the rust in the strut hole with a wire wheel, which might be interfering with fitment. Plus, the corrosion will continue, making future removal a nightmare. You should be able to press the strut into the fork by hand, although the strut (usually) has a protrusion that needs to be aligned in the fork. Light tapping from a rubber mallet shouldn’t hurt the strut, but don’t set your arm to “kill” mode.
Tangent: How did the fork bend that much?