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Ukrainian evacuees studying at university in Japan talk about worries, future dreams

From left, Ukrainian students Inna, Anna and Olena attend a news conference at Saitama University in the city of Saitama on Nov. 2, 2022. (Mainichi/Erika Yamazaki)

SAITAMA -- Ukrainian evacuees who recently began studying at a university in this eastern Japan city talked about their thoughts for their home country at a news conference on Nov. 2.

    Saitama University, near Tokyo, announced the same day that it had accepted four Ukrainian students who fled the Russian invasion of their home country, and three of them attended the news conference.

    The school has exchange programs with Ukraine's Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and Poltava V.G. Korolenko National Pedagogical University. Amid the ongoing Russian invasion, Saitama University accepted two students each from the two universities as non-regular students with tuition waivers in October. With the cooperation of the Saitama Prefectural Government, the university also provides free housing.

    Olena, 22, a first-year student at Poltava V.G. Korolenko National Pedagogical University's graduate program, said, "It is hard to get used to the idea that Russia actually invaded ... We grew up with the mindset that we are neighbor nations. That is something that my parents and my grandparents learned at school."

    Inna, 20, a fourth-year student at the same university, said that she is worried about her family, who cannot leave Ukraine because they are serving with the military's medical service.

    Meanwhile, Anna, 22, a first-year student at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv's master's program in linguistics, said in fluent Japanese, "I'd like to study hard here now, and make my dream of becoming a Japanese language teacher in Ukraine come true."

    Saitama University President Takafumi Sakai commented, "I believe that there are no national borders in academics and the arts and that learning opportunities must be guaranteed for all people."

    (Japanese original by Erika Yamazaki, Saitama Bureau)

    *The students' full names are not disclosed to protect their privacy.

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