Jill Biden pledges mental health help to Ukrainian first lady

First lady Jill Biden on Tuesday met with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, at the White House to discuss how the U.S. could provide help with mental health issues faced by women and children living through Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

The two women first met during a surprise trip by Biden to Ukraine in May for Mother’s Day, during which they first discussed mental health issues stemming from the invasion. 

Biden told Zelenska that she took back a message to her team following that trip about how best to provide for those who have “suffered such tragedy and atrocities.” 

“Every one of our agencies that’s been working on this is going to tell you specifically what they’ve done,” she added. 

Biden acknowledged other officials in the meeting, including Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, among others.  

“One of the things that I said when I came back was you cannot go into a war zone, come back and not feel the sorrow and the pain of the people,” Biden said. “And you introduced me to so many refugees, the mothers and the children, and we spent some time with them.” 

Zelenska was greeted earlier at the White House by the first lady and President Biden, who brought her a bouquet of yellow sunflowers, blue hydrangeas and white orchids.  

For her arrival, an American flag and Ukrainian flag flanked the doors of the White House. 

On Wednesday, Zelenska will address Congress from the congressional auditorium in the Capitol Visitor Center, which comes four months after her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, gave a highly anticipated speech to Congress. 

Zelenska met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday. 

The Ukrainian first lady was largely out of public sight at the beginning of the war, going into hiding with the couple’s 17-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. Her meeting with Jill Biden in May was the first time Zelenska had been seen in public since the start of the war. 

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