U.S. First Lady Jill Biden (2-R), accompanied by the wife of the President of Romania, Carmen Iohannis (L), meets with Ukrainian refugee children in their classroom Saturday at the ‘Uruguay’ Gymnasium School in Bucharest, Romania. Photo by Cristian Nistor/EPA-EFE
May 7 (UPI) — First lady Jill Biden, the only U.S. first lady in history to keep a full-time job as an educator while serving in the role, visited Ukrainian refugees Saturday in a school in Romania.
Biden stopped at Scoala Gimnaziala Uruguay, a Romanian school in Bucharest that had opened its classrooms to Ukrainian refugee students, alongside Romania’s first lady Carmen lohannis, her post on Twitter shows.
The post also included a clip showing her interact with one of the students during a lesson where children traced their hands and cut them out on paper printed with Ukrainian or Romanian flag colors.
“I felt like there was hope in that there were some answers coming forward, and they felt that there was some structure to their lives, and they were getting supplies,” Biden told reporters.
“They all realize how much money the United States has been giving to Ukraine and to the refugee situation and to Romania to support the refugees…I thought that was really important.”
Biden also told the reporters that she could see that the “children really have suffered.”
She introduced the reporters to a child named Mila, age 7, from Kyiv, who wrote: “I want to return to my father,” in a message translated by a teacher.
Another child, age 5, from Odessa, showed a teacher through pictures that she also wanted to go home.
The school, for ages 5-15, has two classrooms of Ukrainian refugee students, who also play with Romanian students during free time and extracurricular activities, with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Biden and Iohannis also saw the students sing the Romanian national anthem, and Ukrainian military march song on a soccer field, according to The Hill. Biden also shook hands with students, posed for photographers, and handed out chocolate bars and Air Force One M&Ms.
Biden also met with Ukrainian women who fled as refugees to Romania.
“I crossed the border with my 3-year-old son and everything I was thinking about was how to save my child from a city that was bombed,” Anastasia Konovalvoa, a Ukrainian teacher who fled Romania in March, told Biden, The Hill reported.
“Thank God the Romanian people were here. I think even the Romanians didn’t expect that they could be so wonderful because you don’t expect that from people.”
“We stand with you,” Biden responded. “I hope you know that.”
“I think you are the amazing ones, really,” Biden continued. “I think mothers will do anything for their children…I think you’re amazingly strong and resilient.”
Iohannis distributed flowers to the Ukrainian women along with Biden, and thanked Biden for her support, according to The Hill.
“I’m very grateful that you took the time and made the effort to visit us,” Iohannis said to Biden. “We feel safer knowing that [the U.S.] back us up…sticking together, being united is very important to us.”
Over 5.8 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russia-Ukraine war began on Feb. 24, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency’s latest count, including more than 850,000 refugees who fled to Romania.
More than 3 million have fled from Ukraine to Poland, over 700,000 to Russia, and hundreds of thousands have fled to Hungary, the Republic of Moldova, and Slovakia.
Biden’s school visit was one of her first stops on a solo European trip since she arrived in Romania on Friday to show support from President Joe Biden and meet with government leaders, Ukrainian refugees, and aid workers.
Ahead of the school visit in Romania, Biden had lunch with Iohannis, who was also a teacher, at her private residence.
“It was just such a wonderful lunch,” Biden told reporters after the lunch. “You never know what you’re getting into, what you’re walking into. She looked at my heritage. She tried to do Italian meals for our lunch, and then we just talked like, girlfriends. I mean, we talked about literature, Shakespeare, we talked about Mark Twain, we talked about exercise.”
Earlier Saturday morning, Biden received a briefing on humanitarian efforts to aid Ukraine at the U.S. Embassy in Romania.
On Friday, she visited Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania and served food to U.S. troops.
Later Saturday, she will travel to Slovakia to meet with U.S. Embassy staff, and she will remain there on Mother’s Day to meet with mothers and children who fled Ukraine as refugees, along with aid workers.