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Ukrainian Musical Performance and Special Lecture Held at KGU

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Kateryna, the bandura performer

As Russian military aggression against Ukraine persists, the world is in a state of anxiety and sadness. To remember Ukraine and to listen to the voices of Ukrainian people who have taken refuge in Japan, the Kwansei Gakuin Educational Corporation hosted a special lecture and a concert featuring the bandura, a Ukrainian folk instrument, at the Central Auditorium of the Nishinomiya-Uegahara Campus on November 21. An audience of roughly 240 people, including students, pupils, faculty and staff, and members of the general public, attended the event. The bandura player, Kateryna, is one of only two people in Japan who is proficient with the instrument. Born in Pripyat, Ukraine, she moved to Tokyo at the age of 19 for her music career, and she has been doing performances in Japan and overseas. For this performance, Kateryna played songs such as the Ukrainian tunes “Yellow Flower” and “Road to Mother,” and performed “Give Me Wings” in Japanese. Her beautiful singing voice and melodies echoed through the Central Auditorium. Speaking to the audience, she said, “I hope that the war will soon be over. May the war end soon, and may we live in peace, safety, and freedom, under blue skies forever.”

Guest speaker Yuria Yokoyama

Next, Ms. Yuria Yokoyama, head of the Ukraine Evacuee Support Project of the Japan YMCA Alliance, gave a lecture focusing on the details of her activities to support Ukrainian evacuees. Using data, she explained that more than 2,000 people from Ukraine have fled to Japan, that the Japan YMCA Alliance has helped more than 150 people to come to Japan, that 75% of them are women, and that Ukrainians are highly motivated to work. She also talked about the project team’s experiences in assisting refugees from their departure from Ukraine to their arrival in Japan, meeting them at the airport, and the procedures they had to go through to live in Japan. Regarding current issues they face, she said said, "Each family and individual has different problems, and we are conducting interviews to provide individualized support. In particular, we need to take care of their mental state, which can easily lead to physical problems. Some people are so anxious that they mistakenly believe that the earthquakes they experience in Japan are bombings. In addition to daily life support, we will continue to provide support through various methods, such as offering places to vent and refresh themselves, counseling, and so on."

From left: Chancellor Motoo Nakamichi, Kateryna, and Ms. Yokoyama
At the end of the lecture, Kateryna, Ms. Yokoyama, and Chancellor Motoo Nakamichi took the stage. Kateryna said, "After the war began in February, I began to think, 'What on earth should I tell people? Surely no one will listen to my songs,’ and I felt unable to sing. But then, many people told me that they wanted to hear my music precisely because of the times we live in now, and I want to make sure I convey my message. In Ukraine, my family and friends are in danger of dying due to the war. In an instant, the peace and security that we took for granted were gone. I hope that everyone in Japan will realize the importance of peace and safety, and live life happily and well," he said. Ms. Yokoyama said, "As I helped several people come to Japan, my presence spread through social media, and in the middle of the night I would receive short messages from people saying, 'We are in a shelter right now because of the bombing. I heard that if I consulted with you, I could evacuate to Japan.’ I could feel the reality of the war. The evacuees all said they never thought Ukraine would be at war. Japan is also a neighbor of Russia, and we cannot let our guard down when we look at other countries, such as the problems between China and Taiwan. Japanese people need to be aware of the situation surrounding Japan.” Chancellor Nakamichi said, "How can the evacuees living in Japan live in peace? One of the most important things we can do is to to keep them in our hearts. Let's etch this moment into our memories.” In closing, Kateryna sang “Furusato” in Japanese, and the auditorium was enveloped in applause.

A third-year student at the School of Sociology who attended the event said, "Today's dialogue made me realize that we should not turn a blind eye to what is happening in Ukraine. It was a good opportunity for me to change my mind about war and peace, as well as Russia's invasion of Ukraine."

The concert

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