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Jill Biden hears “heartbreaking” stories from Ukrainian refugees in Romania

First lady Jill Biden expressed concern that the Ukrainian refugee crisis is only just beginning, after meeting on Saturday with women and children who fled Ukraine to Romania due to Russia’s military invasion.

Driving the news: “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, as part of her four-day trip to eastern Europe, according to a pool report.

  • “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 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.

What’s next: Biden will spend Mother’s Day in Slovakia with Ukrainian mothers and children who fled to the country after Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with the latest refugee numbers.


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