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First ladies of France and Ukraine discuss child cancer initiative

The two met in New York this week. They also talked about how Ukrainian children in France are adapting

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska (Left) and French first lady Brigitte Macron (Right) Pic: Photowalking, Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock

Brigitte Macron, wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, met with Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska this week in the US to discuss France’s support for Ukrainian children who are seriously ill with cancer and how Ukrainian children are adapting to French schools. 

The pair were in New York for the 77th session of the UN General Assembly and met on Wednesday (September 21). 

They discussed Opération Cigogne (Operation Stork), which was set up to transfer Ukrainian children and teenagers who are sick with cancer to French hospitals to continue their treatment. 

This is done in collaboration with French branches of the Red Cross. 

The two first ladies also discussed the school progress of Ukrainian children who have fled to France since the invasion. 

“You can’t imagine how quickly they adapt, how quickly they learn French!" Mrs Macron said.

Mrs Zelenska asked for school schedules and curriculums to be made flexible for the Ukrainian children. 

“In many countries, our parents now have to choose between a local school and their native school, but if the governments make an effort, there will be no need to abandon anything,” she said. 

She said that she was touched by Mrs Macron’s kind words about Ukrainian school children. 

The two women have had a friendly relationship for some time. In March this year Mrs Macron visited Ukrainian children in Épinay-sur-Seine in the suburbs of Paris and said that she had been in written contact with Mrs Zelenska. 

The Ukrainian first lady said in an interview with Le Parisien that same month that the pair shared a friendly relationship. 

“One of the first messages of support [after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] came from her,” Mrs Zelenska said of Mrs Macron. 

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