Jill Biden, the first lady of the United States of America, paid an unexpected visit to western Ukraine on Mother’s Day, having a surprise meeting with first lady Olena Zelenska to show US solidarity for the suffering country as Russia presses its brutal war in the east. She was the latest high-profile American to visit Ukraine during the conflict.
Jill Biden visited Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, at a school that had been converted to help refugees who had fled to Uzhhorod, a town of 100,000 people a few kilometers from the Slovakian border. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s wife, Zelenska, had not been seen in public since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.
Biden traveled to Uzhhorod, Ukraine, for nearly two hours, just a 10-minute drive from a Slovakian border settlement where she had inspected a border processing center. “We understand what it takes for the US first lady to come here during a war when military engagements are taking place every day, where the air alerts are happening every day including today,” Zelenska added, thanking Biden for her “courageous deed.”
Before meeting in private, the first ladies gathered in a tiny classroom, sitting on opposite sides of a wooden table, and welcoming each other in front of reporters. For their safety, Zelenska and her two children have been staying at an unknown location. Jill Biden was able to undertake the kind of personal diplomacy that her husband would prefer to do himself during his visit.
Furthermore, after a half-hour private meeting, the first ladies assisted a group of students at the school in crafting tissue-paper bears to distribute as Mother’s Day gifts. Biden was intrigued by how Zelenska was surviving “through that lens,” and their chat was more like a personal mother-to-mother dialogue.
Additionally, the first lady of the United States informed Zelenska that she wanted to come on Mother’s Day. She believed it was critical to demonstrate to the Ukrainian people that this war must end, that it has been horrible, and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.
Such a high-stakes visit is unusual for any sitting first lady. They rarely visit combat zones, and the last one to do it alone was Laura Bush in Afghanistan in 2008. Biden, a full-time English professor, has spent much of her time as a first lady traveling across the country, pushing Americans to get immunizations and support community colleges, or praising Joe Biden’s social spending initiatives.