On this episode, we meet 2 Ukrainians supporting their compatriots in Japan, from before and after Russia began to invade their homeland. The archpriest of Japan's first Ukrainian Orthodox Mission, Paul Koroluk, and Oksana Piskunova, a teacher for a Ukrainian study program, talk about their lives and how the current events are affecting them and their Ukrainian community in Japan. We also visit Kochi Prefecture, where Dutch-born Rogier Uitenboogaart makes traditional Japanese paper.
About 2,000 Ukrainians live in Japan, and this Ukrainian Orthodox church is a gathering place for the community in Tokyo.
Father Paul Koroluk is the only Ukrainian Orthodox priest in Japan.
He's a spiritual guide for his compatriots.
The church has to be there to welcome and to support people.
Also in Tokyo is this Sunday school that collaborates with the church.
Oksana Piskunova teaches Ukrainian language and culture here.
She works to pass on Ukrainian traditions to children.
But everything suddenly changed with Russia's invasion.
We can't do this on our own!
Meanwhile, evacuees have begun to arrive.
Let's follow Ukrainians in Japan who work and pray for peace in their homeland.
Late February thirty-or-so Ukrainians living in Japan gathered in front of the Russian Embassy in Tokyo for a protest.
Though the invasion had not yet begun, participants voiced their concerns.
The last few months, it was really increased, and a lot of troops collected near our borders.
And it's very, very dangerous for Ukraine.
I came to support Ukraine, and I also want to support my family, who is, of course, very worried back home.
And, we want to show our position and make sure that people around us know what is really going on.
About 100 meters away from the bustle of the demonstration stands a church.
Inside, the archpriest is preparing for worship.
Father Paul Koroluk.
This is the only Ukrainian Orthodox church in Japan.
Around twenty parishioners attend the bi-monthly worship here.
"Let us pray for Ukraine" This is an invaluable place where Ukrainians gather to pray together in this country so far from their homeland.
For everyone, but especially for Ukrainians, the church has to be a place wherever they are, wherever I am, whatever troubles we have, whatever is happening in the world,
a place we can run to and know that we'll be welcomed and safe.
Paul was born in 1966 in New York to parents of Ukrainian heritage.
34 years ago, he came to Japan after university to pursue his interest in the martial art of aikido.
At the time, no Ukrainian Orthodox church existed in the country.
Paul cooperated with the Japanese Ukrainian community to establish one.
He studied theology on his own and became a priest.
When Ukrainians would settle in an area, the first thing that they would do was form a church.
And also, for myself growing up in the states, my main connection with other Ukrainians, with the Ukrainian community, was through our Ukrainian church.
Oksana Piskunova is a member of the congregation.
She's been in Japan for 26 years.
Twice a month, she and other Ukrainians teach their country's language and culture to children at a community center.
Here, volunteer parents hold classes in cooking, dance, Ukrainian and other subjects.
Oksana teaches Ukrainian.
This is an introductory level class.
- Where is this conversation taking place?
- At a supermarket!
"Russian Conversation" I lost my glasses.
Oksana had been making her living using Russian, including teaching NHK's Russian language learning program.
But in 2014, she had a change of heart when her home in eastern Ukraine was taken over by Russian-backed separatists.
Back then, Russian troops, weapons,
and soldiers came to my hometown...
and started killing my neighbors
and my mother's friends.
It strengthened my desire
to cut ties with Russia.
Her mother, Lydia, has evacuated to the suburbs of Kyiv.
She and Oksana speak to each other in Russian.
In the old days during the Soviet era,
all education was in Russian.
But after the independence,
we were allowed to use Ukrainian.
When I spoke Ukrainian,
my kids said I sounded strange...
and that I'd better stick with Russian.
Back then, Ukrainian wasn't seen as important as Russian.
Even so, Oksana filled notebooks with the language that had been passed down by her ancestors.
This is a collection of things like...
seasonal words, proverbs, and songs.
I use them to play games with the children
when I teach them.
Oksana had long dreamed of teaching Ukrainian.
She believes that Ukrainian culture must be passed on as Russia continues to threaten the country's very existence.
Ukraine is what it is today
thanks to Ukrainians worldwide...
who've kept their identity.
It's our mission to transmit our culture
to our children...
because if we don't, those traditions
will die with us and disappear.
The Orthodox church's priest, Paul, is actually only in charge of worship on weekends.
On weekdays, he helps translate English documents at a patent office.
To show my solidarity, I wear a tie
in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Paul's strong feelings for Ukraine derive from his own family's history of struggle there.
Until World War II, the Koroluk family lived in western Ukraine.
But when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Paul's grandparents were executed by the Soviet authorities, due to fear that Ukrainians would ask Germany to help them gain independence.
Meanwhile, the Nazis captured Paul's parents and sent them to Germany as forced laborers.
When the war ended, they and millions of other Ukrainians couldn't return to the Soviet Union because they would've been sent to prisoner camps as traitors.
Paul's parents emigrated to the US after staying at a displaced persons camp in Germany.
Paul has been praying for Ukrainians to be able to live in peace.
On February 24th, Russia launched the military invasion.
Paul received the shocking news while strolling through a park in Tokyo.
Without a word, he headed to the pond, faced west toward Ukraine, and began singing.
"God Almighty, protect Ukraine..."
I don't understand.
Why wage meaningless wars
in this day and age?
I realize the devil still walks the earth.
Senseless wars are futile, really useless,
and only kill people.
I'll contact everyone and think about
how we Ukrainians in Japan...
and the church can help.
Meanwhile, Oksana confirmed the safety of her mother in the suburbs of Kyiv.
What is the situation there?
Our relatives in Mariupol say
electricity and phones are out.
Fighting is ongoing here, and yesterday,
a friend's colleague, a doctor...
was killed while taking
an injured boy to the hospital.
The war also casts its shadow on the children at Oksana's school.
My grandpa can use a gun.
He's teaching my grandma how to shoot...
in case they ever need
to protect themselves.
It's hard for Russian civilians, too.
- No one wants this war.
- It's Putin's fault.
The war has resulted in a sudden increase in the number of students at Oksana's school.
I feel relaxed here.
I'm surrounded by people who love Ukraine,
and we speak in Ukrainian.
Now, weekly protests are held, with a rapidly growing number of participants.
Stop the war!
We want everyone to know
what's happening in Ukraine: it's war.
People are being killed every day
in the middle of 21st-century Europe.
We can't do this on our own.
We need your help to stop Russia!
Japanese people invited by Oksana and other Ukrainians have started to join.
Tanaka Tomo is a key member of this aid organization.
Peace for Ukraine!
He has visited friends in Ukraine several times over the last eight years.
He turns messages he receives from his friends in Ukraine into signs for the protests.
"Today, my brother's friend and his family
were shot and killed."
The words of people who aren't
in the military, who aren't politicians...
feel more personal.
After reading the words of civilians,
some people donate money...
and others ask to join the protests.
Tomo and Oksana's groups are also planning to hold a larger, joint charity event to introduce Ukrainian culture to Japanese.
I'm glad that he really cares
and works to support Ukraine.
It's as if Ukraine was his homeland.
Father Paul of the Orthodox church is visiting a Ukrainian family that recently moved to Japan.
With the war showing no signs of abating, Japan is accepting evacuees.
Father Paul offers some spiritual support.
He blesses them as they begin their life in Japan.
And your husband is from Kyiv, or...?
Ah, no, he is in Lviv now.
OK, Lviv, but he was born in...?
We all were born in Kyiv.
Bye! Thank you a lot! Bye! Have a nice evening!
Maybe for the first time in almost twenty years since we've had a parish here, I feel very strongly that I do have a role, that I do serve a purpose by helping people to,
I hope, keep people from losing the good in their hearts.
That's meant a lot to me.
And I think maybe that's the purpose that I've been here for all of these years.
Two months since the invasion started.
People are gathered at the church.
In tough times, I pray.
Everyone seeks support from somewhere.
Praying clears up my thoughts
and helps to keep me going.
From their adoptive Japan, Ukrainians continue to pray for peace for their faraway homeland.
Hi, I'm Rogier Uitenboogaart.
I make washi - traditional Japanese paper -
and create art with it.
Yusuhara, Kochi Pref.
Rogier's workshop 8:30 a.m.
This is the base ingredient for paper,
a plant called "kozo."
I soak it in water to soften it.
Rogier is one of the few who practice
this 1,000-year-old papermaking craft.
Let me introduce Sachie-san.
The local villagers help Rogier
by processing the "kozo" for him.
This technique carefully removes
the outer skin without chemicals.
This is the hand method used
instead of employing bleaching agents.
There are only 20 or 30 in Japan
who can do this.
It's very rare.
It's gotten warm so quickly.
But the paperbushes haven't bloomed yet.
So, it's still rather cold.
Now, I'll beat this to make pulp.
He beats the plant fibers
to make the pulp.
This is a vat for making paper.
I pour in the "kozo" pulp.
With a screen, he scoops up some pulp
and shapes it into a sheet of paper.
It's settling nicely.
Rogier has been preserving
this traditional method for 40 years.
The first time I saw "washi" paper
was in Amsterdam...
when I worked in book binding.
I saw a sheet of "washi" among other paper.
There were some fibers mixed in the pulp.
It was lovely.
I had to see how it was made.
Rogier came to Japan in 1980,
and visited many workshops.
He settled down in Kochi, where papermaking
starts from growing "kozo."
He creates unique paper
to use for interior decoration.
Materials, methods and our feelings
add expression to the paper.
It's part of the craft's appeal.
Rogier also puts effort
into cultivating "kozo."
Fertilizing with grass
and seeing if tilling is needed...
I find balance to maximize
the soil's strength.
I make paper with water from local nature.
And working fields like this helps make
the water that is so important for paper.
This is "kozo."
It'll grow from next month.
He plants the seedlings he's grown.
This is my wife. Chikako Hi.
He starts making paper from the soil,
the seeds and plants.
To make paper that will last 1,000 years...
he'll continue to study and perfect
papermaking in this dedicated way.
In 2006, they opened a guesthouse
where people can try papermaking.
Some wanted to try making paper,
and even to stay over.
And back then, I was running a cafe.
So, those things combined to make
the perfect timing to start this project.
Guests showed interest in "washi."
I'm really grateful she's running
They hold workshops where people
make "washi" paper with natural materials.
Comments from participants
"A very comfy room,
beautifully decorated with "washi."" Comments from participants
"'Washi' is fascinating.
It's alive, made from plants."
My treasure is the nature
in this area where I live...
as well as this region.
I feel it's supporting me
in my everyday life.
I work surrounded by nature.
Sometimes it can be hard.
But the beautiful nature,
pleasant wind, fresh water...
and the kindness of people here
help me overcome any difficulties.
Those are my treasures.