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Ukrainian folk instrumentalist performs at charity concert in Fukushima town

Kateryna Gudzii, left, and her mother Maria perform a song in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 25, 2022. (Mainichi/Daisuke Wada)
Kateryna Gudzii plays the bandura and sings a song in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 25, 2022. (Mainichi/Daisuke Wada)

FUTABA, Fukushima -- A charity concert performing the bandura, a Ukrainian string folk instrument, was held in this northeastern Japan town on June 25 to support Ukraine, which has been severely damaged by the ongoing Russian invasion.

    Kateryna Gudzii, 36, from Ukraine, played traditional songs from her homeland and sang with a clear voice. Gudzii was forced to leave her hometown after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident and has been performing music in Japan since she was 19 years old.

    The event was organized by Atsuko Yamamoto, 50, a native of the Fukushima Prefecture town of Futaba who currently resides in the prefecture city of Iwaki in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disaster. The town is still under evacuation orders except for some areas, and all residents remain displaced.

    Yamamoto works as the manager of Penguin, a restaurant at the town's industrial exchange center, where the evacuation order has been lifted. She met Gudzii in 2014 at a memorial event for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake held in Yokohama, where the Futaba resident had evacuated to at the time. Yamamoto planned the concert "to repay Gudzii for having cared about Fukushima," and the collected donations will be used to support Ukraine.

    About 60 town residents and others joined the event. Gudzii, a Tokyo resident, performed Ukrainian lullabies and other songs. Her warm bandura melodies and gentle voice enveloped the venue. After the performance, she told the audience about the tragedy of war, saying, "Children, who have done nothing wrong, are being killed," and called for peace.

    Gudzii's 68-year-old mother Maria, who came to Japan in March after being evacuated from the Ukraine capital city of Kyiv, also took the stage and said, "It is important to love and be loved in any situation."

    Yamamoto commented, "Even though we are from different countries, our hearts are the same. I hope everyone in the world works toward solving the problem by uniting their hearts."

    (Japanese original by Hideyuki Kakinuma, Iwaki Local Bureau)

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