First lady Jill Biden traveled to Ukraine on Sunday, spending two hours at a school near the Slovakian border that is now housing displaced families.
Biden met with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, and told reporters she thought it was important to come on Mother’s Day to “show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop, and this war has been brutal, and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.”
This was Zelenska’s first public appearance since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24. She called Biden “courageous” for making the trip, saying the Ukrainian people “understand what it takes for the U.S. first lady to come here during a war, where the military actions are taking place every day, where the air sirens are happening every day, even today.”
Biden made the unannounced stop in Ukraine as part of a four-day tour of Eastern Europe, her spokesman, Michael LaRosa, said, adding that Ukrainian officials contacted Biden’s office and suggested she meet with Zelenska. Biden is the latest high-profile American to visit Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) traveling there in recent weeks. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Ukraine on Sunday as well, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
It is rare for a first lady to visit a war zone; the last to do so was Laura Bush, who went to Afghanistan in 2008, The New York Times reports.