Jill Biden meets Ukrainian refugees on border visit

WASHINGTON – For weeks, First Lady Jill Biden has been fascinated by the news from Ukraine, by the bombings and scenes of “parents crying in the streets over the broken bodies of their children,” as she said in a recent speech.

Now, Biden is using her second solo overseas trip to get a close-up look at Ukraine’s refugee crisis by visiting Romania and Slovakia, where she will spend Mother’s Day with displaced families in a small Slovakian village on the border with Ukraine.

Biden, who opens Friday’s visit to Romania, told reporters traveling with her Thursday night, “It’s so important to the President and to me that the Ukrainian people know we stand with them.” She said earlier in the week, she wants refugees to know “their resilience inspires me”.

NATO allies Romania and Slovakia border Ukraine and have taken in some of the millions, mostly women and children, who fled after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, sparking Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II.


Biden will also use her four days in Europe to highlight issues she promotes at home, such as support for US soldiers, education and child welfare.

After flying overnight from Washington, Biden was due to arrive at Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Force Base near the Black Sea in time to serve Friday dinner to US soldiers stationed there. Some of the several thousand US troops that President Joe Biden deployed to Eastern Europe in the run-up to the war were sent to the base, which is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Romania’s border with Ukraine.

At the heart of the first lady’s trip is Sunday – Mother’s Day – when Biden, a mother of three, meets with displaced Ukrainians who have sought refuge across the border into Slovakia.

Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden, had planned to accompany her mother to Europe but backed out after learning Thursday that she was a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, spokesman Michael LaRosa said the first lady. Ashley Biden tested negative, LaRosa said.


“I can only imagine the sadness that families are feeling,” Jill Biden said this week. “I know we may not share a language, but I hope to convey in a way so much greater than words that their resilience inspires me, that they will not be forgotten, and that all Americans still stand by them.” stand.”

The first lady will also meet with humanitarian workers, educators, government officials and US embassy staff during the trip, the White House said.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, nearly 6 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have fled their country since the Russian invasion. Many have resettled in neighboring countries such as Romania and Slovakia or elsewhere in Europe to try to rebuild their lives.

More than 850,000 Ukrainians have entered Romania since the invasion, while nearly 400,000 have entered Slovakia, according to those countries’ governments.


Biden has long shown an interest in the plight of refugees around the world.

In 2011, when her husband was Vice President, she traveled to drought-stricken East Africa to visit Somali starvation refugees in Dadaab camp in Kenya. In 2017 she visited refugees in Chios, Greece as part of the work of the charity Save The Children, of which she served on the board.

Some refugee advocates said Biden’s trip will send the message that the United States is serious about its humanitarian commitment to the Ukrainian people.

“Every First Lady has a far-reaching platform to raise awareness, and this trip will be an important vehicle to mobilize additional support for those who are being forced to flee their homeland,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and former Political Director to First Lady Michelle Obama.


Jill Biden’s trip to the region marks the latest trip by a US government official to the region following recent visits by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meet.

President Biden visited Ukrainian refugees during a stopover in Poland in March. He has never been so close to Ukraine. The White House said there are no plans to visit Kyiv at this time.

After her time with the US soldiers, the First Lady was scheduled to spend Saturday in Bucharest, Romania’s capital, to be briefed on humanitarian efforts, meet with Romanian First Lady Carmen Iohannis and tour a school hosting Ukrainian refugee students are enrolled before leaving Slovakia. Biden is an English professor at Community College.


On Sunday, she travels to Kosice, Slovakia to visit a city-run refugee center and public school that also hosts Ukrainian refugee students, where she will spend time with Ukrainian and Slovakian mothers and children while they participate in Mother’s Day activities. She then travels to the Slovak-Ukrainian border crossing in Vysne Nemecke, Slovakia.

The White House declined to comment on whether she will cross the border and enter Ukraine.

She will also visit a small Greek Catholic chapel in Vysne Nemecke serving refugees.

Monday will see Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova, the country’s first female president, ahead of Biden’s return to Washington.

The First Lady has shown her support for the Ukrainian people in a number of ways. Wearing a sunflower – Ukraine’s national flower – on her mask and one dress sleeve, she traveled to a hospital in Tennessee to visit Ukrainian children who were being flown there for cancer treatment.


She had Ambassador of Ukraine to the US Oksana Markarova with her during President Biden’s State of the Union address in March and went to the Army’s Fort Campbell in Kentucky to visit the families of US servicemen who have been killed were deployed to Europe to help with the Ukraine crisis.

The trip is the first lady’s second solo trip abroad. She flew to Tokyo last year to represent the United States at the opening of the Olympics.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Jill Biden meets Ukrainian refugees on border visit

Joel McCord

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