HIROSHIMA -- "Let all the souls here rest in peace; For we shall not repeat the evil," an 84-year-old atomic bombing survivor, or hibakusha, read into a video camera at a United Nations agency office here on March 15.
The words are the English translation of the inscription on the cenotaph for atomic bombing victims in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Keiko Ogura had no audience save the camera at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Hiroshima office, across from the A-bomb Dome. Her online audience consisted of about 20 diplomats and defense officials from 11 Asian countries -- people whose job it is to preserve peace.
Ogura has given lectures many times at the institute's annual training course on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, and those who were listening to the online message had taken part in this course. But she sounds especially strident this time around. The reason: Russia has invaded Ukraine, and the risk of atomic arms being used has again reared its ugly head.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Ogura, then 8 years old, was exposed to the bomb near her home, 2.4 kilometers from the hypocenter. She saw people with horrific sores on their skin, or their internal organs exposed to the open air. When she put water into the mouth of one badly injured person complaining of a terrible thirst, they died right there and then.
The trauma of all this kept her from becoming an A-bomb storyteller for many years. Eventually, she was able to testify in English about her experience of the bombing, and the discrimination she suffered after the war.
When she watches the TV news and hears bullets and shells flying in Ukraine, and sees frightened children sheltering underground, Ogura cannot hold back her tears. The sounds and images bring back all those horrific moments etched into her memory when she was 8 years old. She also said that she sees her past self not only in the people of Ukraine, but also in Russian children exposed to Russian government disinformation and propaganda.
During the war, Ogura paraded through the city, calling on people to beware of fire with the slogan: "Kick the Americans and the British, but don't kick the (heated) 'kotatsu' table." She never doubted Imperial General Headquarters' reports carried in the newspapers of glorious victories in the field. After the war, she was dismayed to learn of the deep scars that Japan had left on the hearts of people across Asia. And she was shocked that the "American and British devils" she'd been told about during the war were, when she saw them strolling in the black market, ordinary people.
The cenotaph was built seven years after the atomic bombing. At the time, there was some debate over who was responsible for the "evil" of the attack. Ogura said that the "evil" was "to disregard human life." She spoke with anger toward Russia, for starting a war, but she also turned her mind to various "evils" around the world and commented that human beings are "so stupid."
Then, after reading the cenotaph inscription, she added emphatically that it was the A-bomb survivors' pledge that "we shouldn't repeat the evil nuclear weapon usage."
(Japanese original by Isamu Gari, Hiroshima Bureau)