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Student evacuee from Ukraine enters Tokyo metropolitan high school in 1st

Melana Azima, center, talks with Lena Motomura, left, who is providing support for her following her arrival in Japan, in Tokyo. (Mainichi/Asako Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- A 16-year-old student from Ukraine who fled to Japan following Russia's attack has become the first evacuee from the country following the invasion to be accepted into a metropolitan government-run high school in Tokyo.

    Melana Azima, 16, entered Tokyo Metropolitan Kokusai High School in the capital's Meguro Ward at the end of May. In an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, she said she was grateful for the support from Japan.

    Melana was originally interested in Japanese culture and manga and had wanted to study in Japan. Her 39-year-old mother Maryna received assistance from a Ukrainian acquaintance living in Tokyo, Lena Motomura, 50, and the mother and daughter were able to arrive in Japan in April. Since May they have been living in an apartment provided free of charge by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

    Taking her academic ability and other factors into consideration, the metropolitan government decided to accept Melana as a second-year student at Kokusai High School. Melana will take lessons mainly in Japanese while studying Japanese for about six hours a week. She said teachers and students who can speak English have been supportive of her and added with a smile that she liked everything about the school.

    Seeing her daughter making friends and being able to take part in club activities, including Nihon-buyo traditional Japanese dancing, Maryna appeared relieved, and said Melana's face had brightened since she arrived in Japan.

    Melana's father Dmytro, 40, remains in Ukraine at the family's home in Kyiv. After the onset of the Russian invasion of the country, the bombings got worse, and Melana and the other family members fled to the underground shelter of a nearby hotel. Melana says she can remember the "smell of war," from tank engines to tires and sweat.

    She says it is unbelievable that such events could occur in the 21st century. She expressed her wish for the war to end quickly, and for the liberation of her people.

    In the future, Melana wants to get into a Japanese university to become a biophysicist, and is studying hard. She says she is very grateful for all the concern and support people around her have shown and provided.

    (Japanese original by Asako Takeuchi, Tokyo City News Department)

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