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Jill Biden completes 4-day Europe visit after surprise trip into Ukraine

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Jill Biden completes 4-day Europe visit after surprise trip into Ukraine
U.S. first lady Jill Biden meets on Monday with Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova in Bratislava before she departed for the United States. Photo courtesy Zuzana Caputova/Twitter

May 9 (UPI) -- After a busy weekend in Eastern Europe -- which included a surprise visit to war-scarred Ukraine -- U.S. first lady Jill Biden departed Slovakia on Monday to return to the United States.

On the final day of her tour, Biden with Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova and expressed American support for Slovakia and other neighboring countries near Ukraine against Russia's war.

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"During my time in this beautiful country, I have seen firsthand the shared values that united Slovakia and the United States as friend, partners, and allies," Biden said after her arrival to the Great Hall in Bratislava, according to the White House.

"This includes our common devotion to helping those most in need. We stand with Slovakia as it stands with the people of Ukraine."

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Biden said that she would leave Caputova with a message of U.S. support for the people of Slovakia and Ukraine and "how we stand together in helping the Ukrainian people."

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Before departing, Biden briefly addressed her surprise trip in western Ukraine on Sunday -- saying that the trip over the border made an impression with her.

U.S. first lady Jill Biden meets with a child on Sunday at a school in Uzhhorod, Ukraine. The school has housed children who have fled the fighting in Ukraine over the past several weeks. Photo courtesy Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/UPI

"I saw the need to support the people of Ukraine," she told reporters accompanying her on the trip, also noting the "horrors and the brutality" that she'd heard about from people she visited while inside Ukraine.

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Caputova, the first woman to serve as Slovakia's president, said her meeting with the first lady confirmed the friendship and "excellent relations" between Slovakia and the United States -- and "the ever-stronger transatlantic bond" between the countries.

"In these challenging times, we stand together in defense of our democracy, freedom and value of human life," she said in a tweet.

Earlier on Sunday, Biden met with students and teachers at the Tomasikova Street School in Slovakia for Mother's Day and met with U.S. consular staff. The day before in Romania, she visited Scoala Gimnaziala Uruguay, a Romanian school in Bucharest that has taken in Ukrainian refugee students. She was accompanied by Romanian first lady Carmen lohannis.

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The first lady's trip to Eastern Europe began on Friday when she left Washington, D.C., for Romania. It was Biden's first official trip to Europe without President Joe Biden and just her second official visit anywhere, after her trip to Tokyo last summer for the Summer Games.

"As a mother myself, I can only imagine the grief families are feeling," the first lady said last week about the trip. "I know that we might not share a language, but I hope that I can convey -- in ways so much greater than words -- that their resilience inspires me, that they are not forgotten, and that all Americans stand with them still."

During her visit inside Ukraine, Biden met with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska and expressed gratitude for Slovakia's efforts in supporting thousands of Ukrainian civilians who have fled the fighting in their home country.

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