Extract from The Asahi
August 25 2022
TOKYO – Alone inside an apartment house owned by the Tokyo metropolitan government, a Ukrainian woman quietly jots down hiragana characters on a sheet of paper provided by a Japanese language class.
“It took a very long time for me to remember all the characters,” the woman, 45, said.
Her studies of the Japanese syllabary have served as a distraction from the horrors taking place in Ukraine, her frustration at being unable to return home, and a now-broken promise she made when she fled the country.
But she also knows the language lessons may eventually prove beneficial because, like other Ukrainians in Japan, she has no idea when it will be safe enough to return home.
Ukraine just observed its Independence Day and marked the six-month point of Russia’s invasion of the country. Nearly 1,800 Ukrainians have fled to Japan in that half-year period.
BROTHER LEFT BEHIND
The hiragana-studying woman was living in a town near Dnipro in central Ukraine with her older brother and her two youngest children.
In mid-March, after Russia attacked in late February, the woman left Ukraine and arrived in Tokyo, where her oldest daughter, 22, lives with her husband, a Japanese national.
The woman, whose husband died several years ago, took her second daughter, 7, and her son, 4, to Japan.
However, she could not take her brother, 57, who is mentally disabled. She felt guilty about it but had to leave him in Ukraine with her mother-in-law, 77.
“I will be back in two months,” she told them.
She said she never thought her life as an evacuee would be so prolonged.