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Ukrainian evacuees in Japan visit Hiroshima, renew wishes for peace

Ukrainian evacuees put their hands together in front of the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima's Naka Ward on May 26, 2022. (Mainichi/Kiyomasa Nakamura)

HIROSHIMA -- A group of four Ukrainian evacuee families in Nagano Prefecture visited Peace Memorial Park in this west Japan city on May 26, renewing their wishes for peace in their home country.

    The four families consisting of a total of nine members aged between 3 and 44, from the western Ukraine city of Vinnytsia, fled the Russian invasion and came to Japan via Poland on April 30. They are now living in municipal housing in the central Japan town of Takamori, Nagano Prefecture.

    Takashi Ozawa, 61, a Takamori resident and the grand master of the Zendokai Karate Association headquartered in Nagano Prefecture, urged the municipal government to accept evacuees because his karate organization has a branch in Ukraine and he has interacted with members there, and the town government decided to do so. The Ukrainians who visited Hiroshima consisted of members of Zendokai and their family members.

    Zendokai's Hiroshima/Yamaguchi branch chief Shintaro Iwama, 52, suggested to Ozawa that the branch invite the evacuees to Hiroshima, hoping their thoughts for peace would be strengthened, and the two-night tour was realized. The evacuees took a bus and shinkansen bullet train, and arrived in Hiroshima on May 25. The same night, they also interacted with local Zendokai members through karate. They visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Atomic Bomb Dome the following day.

    Among the group members was Tsymbaliuk Artem, 13, who is staying in Japan with his 44-year-old mother. His 46-year-old father is fighting against the Russian military on an eastern battlefront. Tsymbaliuk prayed in front of the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims and said: "I thought about the sorrow of those who died. I'm also worried about my father."

    Kuznietsova Kateryna, 19, who evacuated to Japan with her 10-year-old brother, said with tears in her eyes: "It was painful to see the items on display at the museum. If a nuclear weapon were used in Ukraine, my home would be gone. I never want that to happen."

    The nine Ukrainians were to return to Takamori on May 27 after visiting Mariho Aquarium in Hiroshima's Nishi Ward that day.

    (Japanese original by Kiyomasa Nakamura, Hiroshima Bureau)

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