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Japanese woman living in Poland becomes a 'bridge' for supplies to Ukraine

This photo shows volunteers providing support for Ukraine, with Yumi Yoshida at the left. (Photo courtesy of Asagao sp. z o.o.)

YOKOHAMA -- A group of volunteers, led by a 27-year-old Japanese woman living in Poland, has begun to deliver relief supplies to neighboring Ukraine in an effort to support the country as Russia continues its invasion.

    Those helping are directly providing supplies after hearing from Ukrainian people about the goods they need. Yumi Yoshida, a native of the Kanagawa prefectural city of Kamakura, who leads the group, said, "If you are thinking, 'I want to do something for Ukraine,' please make a donation."

    The driving force behind their activities is Asagao sp. z o.o., a company based in Krakow, southern Poland, and headed by Yoshida, which serves as a bridge between Japan and Poland by providing information, translation, and support for companies entering each market. In addition to the company, the support was made possible by the cooperation of about 10 people, including Japanese living in Poland and Ukrainian refugee volunteers.

    When Yoshida and others were wondering if there was anything they could do as a Polish company, they received an inquiry from Japan asking "if there was a way to show that the donation had reached the local people immediately," and they decided to provide direct support in the form of supplies. Donations began on March 6, and as of March 11, more than 960,000 yen (about $8,100) had been collected.

    This photo shows cell phone chargers, clothing and other items shipped to Ukraine on March 8, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Asagao sp. z o.o.)

    In order to respond to the latest local situation, they interviewed people and aid groups in Ukraine about needed supplies. Then, the first batch of supplies including mobile batteries, sleeping bags and clothing were purchased on March 7 using the donated funds, and shipped to the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv on the following day.

    These supplies are transported to the Ukrainian border by those who have taken refuge in Krakow, and once in the besieged nation, Ukrainian volunteers who are working to evacuate women and children from the country are delivering them to eastern Ukraine and other areas where there is reportedly a severe shortage of daily necessities.

    In 2014, when she was a university student, Yoshida went to Poland to study international relations. She was attracted to Poland's rich nature and national character, and decided to start a company there. Yoshida temporarily returned to Japan to attend graduate school, but has lived in Poland thereafter. She had previously visited Lviv in the western part of Ukraine and "found it to be an artistic city."

    Yoshida expressed her concern about the Russian invasion, saying, "A lot of people have lost their livelihoods, and we don't know when things will return to normal. This invasion is not beneficial to anyone and is unreasonable."

    In Poland, they are reportedly so busy supporting those who have evacuated to the country that they are not able to help those who are in Ukraine. Yoshida said, "If there are people in Japan who 'want to do something but don't know what to do,' we would like to receive donations and responsibly deliver the goods to the local people."

    The company collects donations by wire transfer to its account. The amount of money donated and how it will be used are updated daily on the company's website, and the transportation status and other information are available on its Facebook page and Instagram account. For more information, visit the company's website at https://news.asagao.pl (in Japanese).

    (Japanese original by Mami Miyajima, Yokohama Bureau)

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