WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — For weeks, First Lady Jill Biden has been shunned by news coming out of Ukraine, from scenes of “parents crying over the broken bodies of their babies on the streets,” as she said recently. Said in a speech.
Now Biden is using her second solo trip abroad to take a closer look at the Ukrainian refugee crisis by visiting Romania and Slovakia, where she will spend Mother’s Day meeting with displaced families in a small Slovakian village on the border with Ukraine .
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“It is so important to the president and me that the people of Ukraine know that we stand with them,” Biden, who began Friday’s visit to Romania, told reporters traveling with her on Thursday night. She said earlier in the week that she wants refugees to know that “their resilience inspires me.”
NATO allies Romania and Slovakia border Ukraine and have taken some of the millions of women and children who fled after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, triggering Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Went.
Biden will also use her four days in Europe to highlight issues she promotes at home, such as support for US service members, education and the welfare of children.
After an overnight flight from Washington, Biden was to arrive at Mihail Koglnicenu Air Base in Romania, near the Black Sea, to help serve Friday dinner to US service members stationed there. Some of the several thousand US troops that President Joe Biden had deployed to Eastern Europe in the lead-up to the war were sent to the base, which is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Romania’s border with Ukraine.
The centerpiece of the first lady’s visit comes on Sunday – Mother’s Day – when Biden, a mother of three, meets with displaced Ukrainians who sought asylum across the border in Slovakia.
First lady spokesman Michael LaRosa said Biden’s daughter Ashley Biden had planned to move to Europe with her mother, but on Thursday after learning she was close contact with someone who had COVID-19. had tested positive for 19. Ashley Biden tested negative, LaRosa said.
“I can only imagine the grief the family is feeling,” Jill Biden said this week. “I know we may not share a language, but I hope that I can express in a way greater than words, that their resilience inspires me, that they are not forgotten, and that All Americans still stand with him.”
The White House said the first lady will also meet with humanitarian aid workers, teachers, government officials and US embassy personnel during the visit.
According to the United Nations refugee agency, some 6 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have fled their country since Russia’s invasion. Many have settled in next-door countries such as Romania and Slovakia, or have moved elsewhere in Europe to try to rebuild their lives.
According to government figures for those countries, more than 850,000 Ukrainians have entered Romania since the invasion, while about 400,000 have entered Slovakia.
Biden has long shown 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 travel with Somali famine refugees at the Dadab camp in Kenya. In 2017, he visited refugees in Chios, Greece, as part of work by the aid organization Save the Children, on whose board he served.
Some refugee advocates said Biden’s visit would send a message that the United States takes seriously its humanitarian commitment to the Ukrainian people.
Krish O’Mara Vignaraja, President and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said, “Every First Lady has a far-reaching platform to raise awareness and this visit will be an important tool to garner additional support for those who live in their homeland. forced to run away.” and was formerly the policy director of First Lady Michelle Obama.
Jill Biden’s visit will be the latest to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, following a recent visit by a US government representative to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.
President Biden visited Ukrainian refugees during a halt in Poland in March. He has been closest to Ukraine. The White House has said that he has no current plans to visit Kyiv.
After her time with American service members, the First Lady prepared to spend Saturday in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, being briefed on humanitarian efforts, meeting with Romanian First Lady Carmen Iohannes and visiting a school where Ukrainian Refugee students were enrolled prior to their departure. Slovakia. Biden is a professor of English at a community college.
On Sundays, she travels to Koसिसice, Slovakia, to visit a city-run refugee center and a public school that also hosts Ukrainian refugee students, where she will spend time with Ukrainian and Slovakian mothers and children as they Participate in Mother’s Day activities.
Thereafter, she will travel across the Slovakia-Ukraine border in Visne Nemeke, Slovakia.
The White House declined to comment on whether she would cross the border into Ukraine.
She will also visit a small Greek Catholic chapel in Vasne Nemeke that serves refugees.
Biden had a meeting with Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova, the country’s first female president, on Monday before heading back to Washington.
The First Lady has supported the Ukrainian people in many ways. She wore a sunflower—the national flower of Ukraine—on her mask and a dress sleeve, and traveled to a Tennessee hospital with Ukrainian children who went there for cancer treatment.
They had Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Oksana Markova, who sat with him during President Biden’s State of the Union address in March, and went to the Army’s Fort Campbell in Kentucky to visit with the families of American soldiers who had been killed. was stationed in Europe to assist. Ukraine crisis.
This trip is the first woman’s second foreign trip. She went to Tokyo last year to represent the United States at the opening of the Olympic Games.