By Hori Kazuhiko
On June 13 the Nippon Foundation held a press conference in Tokyo to announce its establishment of a fund to support Ukrainian evacuees who have fled to Japan from the ongoing Russian invasion. With prospects of a ceasefire uncertain, the Nippon Foundation will solicit 1 billion yen in donations from Japan and other countries through September 2022 to provide support, such as Japanese language education, for the evacuees to live in Japan for the long term.
The fund was realized through the efforts of the U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, who has a grandfather that fled Ukraine, calling on the Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky as well as the Nippon Foundation, which has a proven track record in supporting Ukrainian refugees. At the press conference, Ambassador Emanuel explained that “I want [the evacuees] to resume their lives in their home country someday. Until then, I want to help make people feel like they are in their hometowns.”
According to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, there are 1,274 Ukrainians residing in Japan who entered the country after March 2 (preliminary figures as of June 12). More than 70% of these Ukrainians changed their visas from “short-term stays” to “specific activities (1 year),” and the protracted evacuation has become an issue. The Nippon Foundation will support the evacuees’ daily living expenses and transportation smart cards with the newly established fund and plan such events as inviting evacuees to firework festivals to experience Japanese culture.
Sasakawa Jumpei, Executive Director of the Nippon Foundation, said, “We want to create a system that can respond to urgent illness or mental health issues to families raising children.” Ambassador Korsunsky emphasized the importance of support, saying, “Ukrainian youths who study in Japan will play a major role in the reconstruction of our homeland in the future. As important partners of Japan who understand Japanese culture, they can also serve as a bridge between the businesses of the two countries.”
Members of an evacuee family were also present at the press conference. Oksana Bila, who lived in the northeastern oblast of Kharkiv, said she was awoken by an explosion on the morning of February 24, the day that the invasion began, and realized that “war had begun.” A house in her neighborhood was destroyed and she evacuated to the western
oblast of Lviv due to escape impending danger. She left Lviv in late April and fled to Japan with her two children.
Bila said anxiously, “I don’t know when this situation will end,” but also expressed her gratitude for the support, saying, “I’m relieved that I’m in Japan with beautiful cityscapes. I want to do something useful for the Japanese people who support me.” Her son Mark Yelenets, who is a university student, smiled and said, “I want to study philosophy and history” in Japan.
The Nippon Foundation has established a special website for donations. For inquiries, please contact The Nippon Foundation (0120-533-236; weekdays 9 am-5pm).