As Russia continues to attack Ukraine, First Lady Jill Biden paid an unannounced visit to the country on Sunday, meeting with Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska.
Biden entered Ukraine at Uzhhorod, where he visited a school that is providing temporary housing and shelter to 163 displaced Ukrainians, including 47 children.
“I’d like to come on Mother’s Day.” “I thought it was important to demonstrate to the Ukrainian people that this war must end, that it has been brutal, and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.
The visit was one of the last stops on Biden’s Mother’s Day weekend trip to the region. She spent time in Romania with US troops and met with displaced Ukrainian refugees in Romania and Slovakia. Biden’s visit to Ukraine also coincides with Russia’s Victory Day, which commemorates the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany.
Biden greeted Zelenska with a flower bouquet and a hug. According to a pool report, the two first ladies have exchanged correspondence in recent weeks. This is Zelenska’s first public appearance since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Biden was in Ukraine for about two hours, where she had an hour-long private meeting with Zelenska before meeting with children who were sheltered at the school. Zelenska said Biden’s visit to Ukraine is a “very courageous act.”
“”Because we understand what it takes for the First Lady of the United States to come here during a war where military actions take place every day, where air sirens sound every day even today,” Zelenska said, according to a translation provided to reporters.
Ukraine, according to Zelenska, feels supported by the United States and President Joe Biden.
“We all feel your support, and we all feel the leadership of the United States president,” Zelenska said. “However, we would like to emphasize that Mother’s Day is a very symbolic day for us because we also feel your love and support on such an important day.”
Jill Biden and Zelenska met with approximately 15 displaced Ukrainian children who were participating in arts and crafts projects. An official with the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration told reporters that the projects were recreational and psychosocial in nature, with the goal of encouraging socialization among children who are now living at the school and dealing with war-related trauma.
The children created bears out of cardboard and tissue paper to represent the region around Uzhhorod. According to the pool, both first ladies made their own bears out of white and yellow tissue paper.
That was Biden’s final stop on her multi-day trip to Eastern Europe before returning to Slovakia and departing from Kosice Airport.
During a press briefing on the plane, Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s press secretary, stated that Biden initially expressed a desire to visit Ukraine for her spring break in March, but the opportunity was not available at the time.
LaRosa stated that officials who arrived in the region ten days before Biden’s trip began informing regional government officials of the first lady’s travel plans. Ukrainians offered to arrange a meeting with Zelenska at that point.
While Biden had always intended to visit the school, LaRosa said the meeting with Zelenska was only confirmed in the last few days.
According to LaRosa, during their meeting, Biden asked Zelenska how she was doing as a mother and dealing with the war.
Zelenska expressed gratitude for being able to “hold her children’s hands every night even though she can’t be with her husband,” according to LaRosa.
Biden’s trip to Ukraine was widely praised.
The United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Biden’s visit with Zelenska will provide “so much support and encouragement to the Ukrainian women and children.”
Thomas-Greenfield stated that she met with Ukrainian mothers during a recent trip to Romania and Moldova and witnessed their strength.