Olga Ruban, left, who has evacuated from Ukraine to Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, crops potatoes with a neighborhood farmer in Nihonmatsu on April 13. (Supplied by Shinzo Kimura)

A loud roar woke Olga Ruban, who was asleep in her residence in Kyiv, Ukraine.

“I had no thought what had occurred,” the 34-year-old Ukrainian girl stated in recalling the morning of Feb. 24.

She turned on a TV to study that Russia had launched an invasion of her nation.

When Ruban began pondering of fleeing her homeland, she reached out for connections with far-flung Japan partly due to the kendo classes she had taken in Ukraine.

As well as, she additionally held particular emotions for Fukushima Prefecture, which remains to be rebuilding from the nuclear catastrophe of 2011 following the Nice East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

“I felt myself nearer to Japan than to Europe,” she stated.

Right now, Ruban is embarking on a brand new stage of her life in Fukushima Prefecture, though her ideas and considerations stay for her dad and mom nonetheless in Ukraine.

After the battle broke out, Ruban spent a full month shuttling forwards and backwards between her residence and a subway station, which served as a shelter, however she was not capable of proceed like that.

She took an evacuation prepare alone by herself in late March and took refuge in Germany, the place a buddy lives.

Ruban mirrored on her future whereas she was staying for 2 days at her buddy’s residence.

Her dad and mom, who dwell in a city close to the Russian border, selected to remain, saying that it was their homeland and they’d by no means go wherever else.


Ruban started studying kendo in Ukraine about seven years in the past. She studied below Hiroki Godai, founding father of the Kyiv Kendo Federation, who died an premature demise on the age of 44 in 2020.

Ruban visited Japan in 2018 together with her kendo colleagues, together with Godai.

In the course of the tour, she watched a match at a martial arts venue and took part in friendship coaching periods in Tokyo and Osaka. She additionally took a aspect journey to a Kyoto temple and elsewhere to expertise Japanese tradition.

“My affection for Japan started once I met Mr. Godai,” she stated. “He opened the door to Japan for me.”

Ruban turned to the secretary-general of the Kyiv Kendo Federation for assist and utilized for a visa on the Japanese Embassy in Warsaw.

Shinzo Kimura, a radiation hygiene professional who’s mates with the secretary-general, organized for Ruban to be hosted within the metropolis of Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.

Kimura is an affiliate professor with the Fukushima Department, in Nihonmatsu, of the Dokkyo Medical College Laboratory of Worldwide Epidemiology.

“I had by no means been to Fukushima Prefecture, however I used to be informed that folks have been returning there following the nuclear catastrophe and have been rebuilding their communities step-by-step,” Ruban stated, including that she noticed a mirrored image of her personal beginning over in life.


On April 5, Ruban was one of many 20 Ukrainian evacuees who disembarked from a particular Japanese authorities aircraft at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. She now lives below the roof of a feminine farmer in Nihonmatsu and is being supported by donations raised by Kimura and like-minded folks.

“All folks listed here are very sort to me,” she stated. “I really feel as in the event that they have been my second household.”

Ruban stated she by no means forgets about her residence nation even for a second. She calls her dad and mom day by day on the cellphone, however their conversations are interrupted by bombardments, which have gotten increasingly frequent nowadays. She feels disquieted each time that happens.

She stated she can also be anxious a couple of cousin and a buddy who’re serving within the Ukrainian army.

And he or she didn’t conceal the anger she feels towards the homicide of girls and youngsters by the Russian armed forces, acts that she calls “genocide.”

Ruban started attending a Japanese language course, desperate to shortly turn out to be accustomed to her new life in Japan. She has set the purpose of turning into a farmer sooner or later, partly as a result of her dad and mom used to develop greens and flowers on a giant farm.

She has already had a strive at farm work, together with by planting potatoes.

“I want to dwell right here and journey every so often to Ukraine to see my dad and mom and mates,” Ruban stated.

Kimura made acquaintances with residents of Ukraine when he took half in a research on publicity to radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe. He has plans for having extra Ukrainian evacuees hosted within the days and months to return.

Kimura is looking for extra donations by way of the nonprofit Chernobyl Medical Assist Community, the place he serves as medical adviser.