When I got off at Shibuya station, the Ukrainian national anthem was the first thing I heard.
On February 26, two days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, about 200 Ukrainians living in Japan The demonstration was held in front of the train station square. The two-tone colors of the Ukrainian flag covered the area, on which danced the fiery words “Putin is a murderer” and “Nazis are back. Among them was a young child holding a placard that read “Save Ukraine” and staring at a reporter.
Kirova Kristina, from the capital city of Kiev, who participated in the demonstration, sighed repeatedly as she communicated with her cousin in Ukraine about her safety while the reporter was listening to her story.
“My parents tell me, ‘Call us every hour. Every time I call, they complain about their physical and mental exhaustion, saying, ‘I’ve only slept for three hours,’ and I’m so worried. I want to come from Japan to see them, but there is no plane to Ukraine. I am frustrated that I cannot see him even if I wanted to. I haven’t been able to see him for more than 3 years due to the corona and I can’t believe this is happening. ……
My father, who will be 50 years old this March, has taken up arms and joined the reserves, saying, ‘I can’t stand the situation now. His father is not a Ukrainian citizen to begin with, but a Bulgarian citizen, so he volunteered of his own volition, even though it was not mandatory for him to participate. I support my father and if there were many people as brave as he is, things might change a little. But I feel so worried that I can’t bear it.”
To the reporter’s surprise, many Russians were at the demonstration. One of them, Anastasia, repeatedly uttered the words, “I am sorry for the Ukrainian people.
I had Ukrainian friends, but they stopped seeing me because of this war.” I have mixed feelings. I want the Japanese people to know that Putin alone is to blame. Even if it takes some time, I hope that I can get back to my former relationship with my friends in Ukraine.”
Another Russian woman (who wished to remain anonymous) was outraged, saying.
I have never been so ashamed to be born Russian. What have Russian politicians learned from the two world wars? How many lives must be lost before they are satisfied? The people do not want war. My grandmother had four brothers, all of whom died in the war. They were the ones who loved their families more than anyone else. But my uncle, who was in the Russian army, suddenly went unreachable 10 days ago. I am sure he went to Ukraine.
My grandmother is once again overcome with grief. Yesterday, when I talked to her on the phone, she said with tears in her eyes. ‘That boy should have joined the army because he wanted to protect Russia. She is a kind girl, she can’t kill people. I am so frustrated that all I can do is go to church and pray. I don’t want to lose any more of my beloved family.’ I feel the same way. As long as Putin is at the top of the country, there is no future for Russia.”
What President Putin should do now is to listen to the people.
Interview and text： Masaki Okada Photo： Shinji Hasuo