Akiyoshi Chikada, a 96-year-old Japanese man who was formerly interned in Ukraine during World War II, says that history is repeating itself with the Russia-Ukraine War.
Chikada was tricked into working at an internment camp in 1945 after Soviet troops promised he was returning to Japan while putting him on a freight train, according to The Mainichi.
He was forced to survive on stale black bread and thin soups while working in freezing temperatures. He was also not given enough water to drink, much less bathe.
In July 1946, Chikada was told again that he would be returning home to Japan but actually ended up in Ukraine, which was a part of the Soviet Union at the time.
He was forced to work again, tasked with moving bricks and cement with a unicycle as his tool.
The 96-year-old recalls a particular time when his Ukrainian supervisor told him that his father had also been captured during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and was forced into an internment camp.
He was treated kindly by the Japanese people, he explained to Chikada, and then assured “you all will surely be able to return to Japan, so hang in there until then.”
Chikada remembers feeling “a sense of unity in his words that sympathized with Japan’s prisoners,” and after using every bit of energy left to work, Chikada finally returned to Japan in November 1948.
On the news that Moscow was forcibly moving Ukrainians to Russia, Chikada told The Mainichi, “I think that Russia is doing the same thing they did 70 years ago.”
He also added, “I wonder what kind of ending will come after they bring the residents to Russia. The relatives of the man [who was supervising the detention site] may have also suffered a miserable fate. I’d like the fighting to end, and for it to become peaceful.”
The Japanese government has shown strong support to Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia, donating $300 million as well as welcoming hundreds of displaced Ukrainians behind its borders.
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