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Ukrainian evacuees in east Japan city tell mayor they appreciate warm hospitality

Anastasiia Motorna, right, tells Hitachi Mayor Haruki Ogawa about her recent life in the city at the municipal government hall in Ibaraki Prefecture on Sept. 7, 2022. (Mainichi/Takahiro Tauchi)

HITACHI, Ibaraki -- Two Ukrainian evacuees in this eastern Japan city made a courtesy visit to the mayor on Sept. 7 and told him how much they enjoy the warm hospitality.

    Nataliia Babenko, 26, and Anastasiia Motorna, 21, who fled the Russian invasion and have been living in the city of Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, since late July, began to attend classes at a Japanese language school in late August. They told Mayor Haruki Ogawa that the teachers and students at the school kindly help them and that they like the city.

    Both Babenko and Motorna are from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, and came to Japan with the help of "Japanese Supports for Ukrainian Students" (JSUS), consisting of Japanese language schools across the country. They are currently studying at Hitachi Sakura Japanese Language School, a member of the support group. The Hitachi Municipal Government is also assisting their lives by means such as providing them with municipal housing free of rent.

    The language school's principal Miyuki Matsuura explained how the students are doing, and Mayor Ogawa replied, "We'd like to give them as much assistance as possible so that they can live and study in peace. We want them to let us know if they have any trouble."

    Motorna said in Japanese, "I've become accustomed to life here. I talk with my parents in Kyiv over the phone every night." She said that she enjoys Japanese food, adding with a smile, "I really like gyoza dumplings. I recently used a rice cooker for the first time, and Japanese rice tastes better than Ukrainian rice." She said she intends to return to her home country in the future and dreams of becoming a Japanese language teacher.

    (Japanese original by Takahiro Tauchi, Hitachi Local Bureau)

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