Updated May 8, 2022 - World

In photos: Jill Biden hears "heartbreaking" stories from Ukrainian refugees

First Lady Jill Biden comforts a woman during a visit of the "Uruguay Gymnasium School" in Bucharest to meet Ukrainian refugee pupils and Ukrainian refugee teachers on May 7.
First lady Jill Biden comforts a woman during a visit to the Uruguay Gymnasium School in Bucharest to meet Ukrainian refugees and teachers on Saturday. Photo: Octav Ganea/Inquam Photos/AFP via Getty Images

First lady Jill Biden said Sunday that the "hearts of the American people are with the mothers of Ukraine” as she met with Ukrainian mothers and children at a school in Kosice, Slovakia, according to a White House pool report.

Driving the news: The first lady's stop in Slovakia is the latest in her four-day trip to Eastern Europe. While in Kosice, Biden met with local officials, representatives from local NGOs and UN agencies, and spoke with Ukrainian refugees.

  • "It's senseless," she said while speaking to a Ukrainian mother about the difficulty of explaining the war to children, per a pool report.
  • Biden also visited the Vyšné Nemecké border crossing between Slovakia and Ukraine, where she toured the support facilities and met with volunteers and first responders.

State of play: Biden on Saturday expressed concern that the Ukrainian refugee crisis is only just beginning, as she met with women and children who fled to Romania due to Russia's military invasion.

  • "We wake up every morning and think 'this has to end,' but it still keeps going on and on," Biden said after visiting the refugees at a school in Bucharest.
  • "It's been going on really since 2014," Biden said, in reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
  • "I was here in 2014 and saw the beginnings of the conflict," she added. "I visited a hospital and saw some of the wounded warriors there. So this has been a long time but now it's intensified, of course."

By the numbers: More than 5.8 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24, according to the latest United Nations refugee agency data.

  • Romania has taken in the second-largest number of refugees from Ukraine (nearly 858,000) after Poland (almost 3.2 million).

What she's saying: Biden said Saturday she "felt like there was hope" as the refugees now had "some structure to their lives," but she described the stories she heard at the school as "heartbreaking."

  • She recounted meeting a mother who told her of escaping after being holed up in a basement with her 8-year-old daughter. "Obviously the mother was traumatized and felt all that emotion," Biden said.
Jill Biden speaks with Ukrainian children who fled to Slovakia
Jill Biden speaks with Ukrainian children who fled to Slovakia following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on May 8 in Kosice, Slovakia. Photo: Zuzana Gogova/Getty Images
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The first lady speaks with Ukrainian children who fled to Slovakia following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Mother's Day at Primary School Tomasikova 31 on May 8. Photo: Zuzana Gogova/Getty Images
Jill Biden at a service in Vysne Nemecke, Slovakia
Jill Biden and Slovakia's Prime Minister Eduard Heger listen as Captain Frantisek Krusinsky, a priest from the Ordinariate of the Slovak Armed Forces, speaks during a service in Vyšné Nemecké, Slovakia, on May 8. Photo: Peter Lazar/AFP via Getty Images
Jill Biden (C) and Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger with his wife Lucia Hegerova pose with aid workers and volunteers as they visit the Slovak-Ukrainian border
Jill Biden and Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger, with his wife, Lucia Hegerova, pose with aid workers and volunteers as they visit the Slovak-Ukrainian border crossing in Vyšné Nemecké, Slovakia, on May 8. Photo: Peter Lazar/AFP via Getty Images
Jill Biden meets with volunteers in Slovakia
Jill Biden greets volunteers and first responders in Vyšné Nemecké, Slovakia, on May 8. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/AFP via Getty Images
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First lady Jill Biden (L) speaks with Ukrainian refugees at a city-run refugee center in Kosice, Slovakia, on May 8. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Go deeper: Axios explains Ukraine

Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.

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