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Angelina Jolie met with refugees and volunteers during a surprise visit to Lviv

Angelina Jolie, Hollywood movie star and UNHCR goodwill ambassador, poses Saturday for photo with her fans in Lviv, Ukraine.
Eduard Tomilchenko
Angelina Jolie, Hollywood movie star and UNHCR goodwill ambassador, poses Saturday for photo with her fans in Lviv, Ukraine.

American actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie made a surprise visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv this weekend, where she met with people displaced by the war and visited some of the facilities and organizations that are busy helping them.

Jolie has been a U.N. Special Envoy for refugees for a decade. However, a spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency said that it had no involvement in the visit and that she traveled to Ukraine "in her personal capacity."

Maksym Kozytskyy, the Lviv regional governor, said on Telegram that Jolie met with Ukrainians who have found refuge in the city, including children who are being treated for injuries they suffered in last month's missile strike on the Kramatorsk railway station.

"She was very moved by (the children's) stories," Kozytskyy wrote, according to a translation from the Associated Press. "One girl was even able to privately tell Ms. Jolie about a dream she'd had."

Jolie also met with recent evacuees arriving at Lviv's central train station, as well as the Ukrainian volunteers greeting them with medical help and counseling.

And she visited a boarding school, where she chatted and took photos with students before promising to return again.

Celebrity chef José Andrés shared photos on Twitter of Jolie meeting with cooks and volunteers for his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, which is providing meals to Ukrainians across the country daily.

She evidently sampled some of their soup, too.

Jolie's presence appeared to surprise and delight fans across the city — for the most part. A now-viral video shows her signing an autograph for an admirer in a coffee shop, while a young boy sits at a nearby table, wearing headphones and engrossed in his phone.

Social media users seized on the boy's intent focus on his phone and seeming obliviousness to the celebrity mere inches away, and have made it into a meme.

In many versions of the meme (as compiled in this Twitter thread by veteran political advisor Yarema Dukh), Jolie is labeled as herself while the boy is labeled as distracted by more pressing wartime pursuits — like "Me, trying to find a gas station with a gas" or "How to deliver 56 vests and 120 first-aid kits from Warsaw."

It's both relatable and understandable. As Kozytskyy wrote on Telegram, Jolie's visit "was a surprise to us all."

"Plenty of people who saw Ms. Jolie in the Lviv region could not believe that it was really her," he added. "But since Feb. 24, Ukraine has shown the entire world that there are plenty of incredible things here."

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.