BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) Jill Biden heard heartbreaking stories Saturday from Ukrainian women and children who fled Russia’s war and found safe haven in Romania, with one mother telling the U.S. first lady of a harrowing escape after being holed up in a cramped, cold basement with her traumatized 8-year-old daughter.
Reaching Romania “was a game change for us,” Svitlana Gollyak of Kharkiv, Ukraine, told Biden in her native language during the first lady’s tour of a Bucharest public school hosting refugee children. Gollyak said her daughter “feels much better here. ... No more tears and she adapted very nicely.”
Biden told Gollyak and the other women, “I think mothers will do anything for their children,” adding that they were “amazingly strong and resilient.”
Biden said her message to the families was “we stand with you.” During a craft activity, she watched as the children scrawled messages on paper cutouts of their hands. One young Ukrainian girl wrote, “I want to return to my father.” Biden later told reporters the girl’s words were “heartbreaking.”
The first lady praised the Romanian government and relief organizations for the range of humanitarian aid they are providing to refugees. At the school, the first lady — herself a teacher — saw how teachers are helping some of the approximately 900,000 Ukrainians who have fled to Romania since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.