July 7, 2009 / 6:00 PM / 10 years ago

Michelle Obama charms Russian children

MOSCOW (Reuters) - With a constant grin and easy manner, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama charmed Russian children and nurses on Tuesday while her husband conducted summit diplomacy in Moscow.

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama poses for a picture during her visit to St. Dmitriy Nursing College of Sisters of Mercy in Moscow, July 7, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

On day two of their trip, the wife of U.S. President Barack Obama visited a school for poor children and a nursing college, both attached to a Russian Orthodox cathedral a 15-minute drive from the Kremlin.

“The work you do is very important,” she told a group of 22 nurses. “Thank you for your warm hearts.”

The enraptured nurses grinned back at Obama — who wore a slender, sleeveless black and white knee-length dress — and clutched her hand when she thanked them all personally.

After she had left, the nurses gushed about their visitor.

“We’re so happy that somebody at this level came to speak to us. She is a beautiful woman,” said Svetlana Arzamastyeva, 51, who has worked in the nursing college for 17 years. “This is a unique event.”

Earlier in another room at the St Dmitry Cathedral, 24 children, dressed in their best clothes and watched by burly U.S. and Russian security personnel, sang in English and Russian for Obama, who nodded her head and clapped along with the music.

The school teaches about 160 vulnerable children, including some orphans and others from large, poor families.

“Do you have any children?” one small girl with a white ribbon in her hair asked the first lady.

“I have two little girls,” Obama replied. “They have come with us to Russia but they are now with their grandmother.”

A few hours later at a theater in central Moscow, about 600 children saw Obama with her two daughters — Malia and Sasha — and the wife of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Svetlana.

The children roared and cheered when their guests entered before sitting down for over an hour of traditional Russian folk music and songs.

Afterwards the chattering children, aged between four and 16, all agreed the U.S. first lady was “brilliant.”

One small girl in a wheelchair was a little more expansive.

“She’s so pretty and very cheerful,” she said.

Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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