What Jill Biden learned from her visit to Ukrainian mothers (Opinion)


Publisher’s note: Jill Biden is the first lady of the United States. She recently visited Romania, Slovakia and the Ukraine over Mother’s Day weekend. The opinions expressed in this comment belong solely to the author of it.

(CNN)– You can’t go into a war zone and come out of it undisturbed. You don’t have to see sadness with your eyes, because you can feel it with your heart.

The thing about sorrow is that it surrounds you. It is as if a mist descends. The mothers’ tears remain permanently at the edges of their eyes, as if they could barely contain their sadness. They hold their children’s hands or touch their hair as if they can’t bear to lose the physical connection. They show bravery on their faces, but their emotions show in their hunched shoulders, in the nervousness of their bodies.

Something is missing: laughter, a common language among women.

Ukrainian mothers in the Romanian and Slovak schools I visited told me of the horrors of bombs falling night after night as they sought shelter on their journey west. Many had to live days without food or sunlight, sheltered in basements, underground.

A young mother I met in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, told me that when she and her family ventured out to look for food, Russian soldiers fired into lines of people waiting for a piece of bread. These Ukrainian mothers were very grateful to the people of Romania and Slovakia for their support. As another mother, Anna, told me, “there are no borders to our hearts.”

Border guards told me stories of thousands of people with few belongings who crossed into Slovakia: a desperate sea of ​​humanity, whose lives changed forever on February 24, the date of the new Russian invasion of an unjust war that began years ago.

In the cold of February, many arrived without shoes, after having walked kilometers and kilometers. They fled in fear, with the only desire to be able to return home. An 11 year old boy came alone with a phone number to contact his family written on his hand. And then there were his pets making the trip with them. “We weren’t prepared for that,” the guards told me.

Olena Zelenska, the wife of the President of Ukraine, came out of hiding, leaving her own children, to visit me and ask me for help for the people of her country. She didn’t ask me for food, or clothes, or weapons. She asked me to help her get health care for all those suffering from the effects of Vladimir Putin’s brutal and senseless war.

He told me about the rapes of women and children, and the many children who had seen people being shot and killed, and their houses burned. “I want to go home quickly,” he told her. “I just want to hold my children by the hand.”

We wish each other a Happy Mother’s Day. I told her that I was in Ukraine to show Ukrainian mothers that we were with them, and that I was carrying with me the hearts of the American people. “Thank you,” Zelenska responded, “Ukrainians are very grateful for the support of the American people.”

Kahlil Gibran wrote on one occasion: “The more sadness penetrates her being, the more joy she can contain.” My hope is that this is true for the mothers I have known. But that can only happen when this war is over.

Mr Putin, please put an end to this brutal and senseless war.



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