Refugees Share 'Heartbreaking' Stories With First Lady

Jill Biden visits mothers, children at school in Romania
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 7, 2022 2:50 PM CDT
'We Stand With You,' Jill Biden Assures Ukrainian Refugees
Jill Biden and Romanian first lady of Romania Carmen Iohannis talk to students Saturday in Bucharest.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

Jill Biden on Saturday heard heartbreaking stories from Ukrainian women and children who fled Russia's war and found safe haven across the border in Romania. She praised the Romanian government and relief organizations for the range of humanitarian aid they are providing to refugees, the AP reports. At a public school hosting refugee students, the first lady saw firsthand the efforts to assist some of the 900,000 Ukrainians who have fled to Romania since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Most of those Ukrainians have moved on to other countries, but many—mainly women and children—have remained as the fighting rages. "We stand with you," Biden told students' mothers after visiting classrooms where kids ages 5 to 15 attend school.

Earlier, Biden received a briefing at the US Embassy on the relief effort. She said it was inspiring for Romanians "to welcome all these refugees into their homes and offer them food and clothing and shelter and give them their hearts." But she cautioned that much more needs to be done by the US and allies to assist Ukraine. About 7,000 Ukrainians cross the border and arrive in Romania daily, an official said. UN and other agencies and the Romanian government are providing refugees with a range of services, including food, shelter, education, health and mental health care, and counseling. Biden asked specifically about the provision of mental health services and whether summer school was available to help refugee students catch up on their education.

Biden met with Romanian first lady Carmen Iohannis over lunch at her private residence, as well. Iohannis kept her job as an English teacher when her husband took office just as Biden kept hers at a community college. At the public school, a young Ukrainian girl told Biden through a translator, "I want to return to my father." Biden later told reporters the girl's words were "heartbreaking." At moments, Biden appeared anguished as she listened to the stories from mothers who told her of their difficult decisions to flee their homeland. The first lady was on the second day of a four-day trip to Romania and Slovakia, which also shares a border with Ukraine. She was scheduled to spend Sunday, Mother's Day, meeting with refugees and visiting a border village.

(More Jill Biden stories.)

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