VOX POPULI: Aid to Ukraine must not falter as Russian invasion drags on

Poland tops the world for the number of refugees it has taken in from Ukraine.

Nearly 4 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring Poland, a nation of 38 million people.

Understandably, the latter is said to be starting to show signs of “aid fatigue.”

“It’s no easy task, whether you host the refugees at your home or aid those who are staying at churches and shelters set up at train stations,” noted Takaaki Ota, 74, the director of Fukuden Kai, a Tokyo-based social welfare corporation.

“When this goes on for a prolonged period, humanitarian concerns alone won’t be enough to keep you going.”

Fukuden Kai has been sending donations, collected in Japan, to its branch in Krakow.

The organization’s history goes back 100-plus years, when tens of thousands of Poles were driven to Siberia amid the chaos created by World War I and the Russian Revolution.

A relief organization was created in 1919 to save starving and sick Polish orphans.

When the organization’s representatives were denied assistance from the United States and China, they turned to Japan and negotiated with it hoping against hope.

To their surprise, the Japanese government readily agreed to provide help through the Japanese Red Cross Society.

More than 750 orphans arrived at Tsruruga Port in Fukui Prefecture. They were taken to Fukuden Kai and a hospital in Osaka, where they were given hot meals and haircuts until they recovered sufficiently for their eventual return to Poland.

This history came to be taught in Polish schools, but it was allowed to fall into oblivion in Japan.

It was not until a decade ago that the Polish ambassador to Japan happened to notice Fukuden Kai’s doorplate while on his Sunday stroll. That led to reinstating exchanges between Fukuden Kai and Poland.

Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) famously observed, “Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.”

The world is desperately hoping for a cease-fire in Ukraine, but Russia is not relenting. How many orphans has this war created so far?

Relief work must not be allowed to slacken.

–The Asahi Shimbun, June 16

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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