A Japanese man who is determined to fight for Ukraine against Russia says he has accepted the harsh reality that he may never see his homeland again.
“I’m single with no partner or children,” the volunteer soldier in his 20s said in an online interview with The Asahi Shimbun. “I have nothing to lose. I came to Ukraine content with the idea that I might never return to Japan. I intend to keep fighting until Ukraine wins.”
He had answered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call in late February for foreign volunteers to help repel the Russian troops who invaded his country earlier that month.
The volunteer was interviewed by The Asahi Shimbun before another Japanese volunteer soldier in his 20s was confirmed dead in a battle in Ukraine in November.
The interviewee showed the contract he struck with Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.
He belongs to a military unit comprising Ukrainian and foreign soldiers.
He said he spent three months in the eastern Ukraine city of Izium, where fierce fighting has taken place.
Half of his time in the city was in a front-line trench where he monitored the movements of Russian soldiers who were several kilometers away.
He and his fellow soldiers took turns napping in sleeping bags to maintain a 24-hour watch on the Russians.
His colleagues fired their rifles at attacking Russian forces, but he said he has yet to shoot his gun.
The unit in Izium included many fighters from other European countries as well as North or South America.
“I managed to communicate with them with very basic English words and body language,” he said.
His time in Izium followed repetitive routine.
He spent two days in the trench and then two days at a waiting center where he either exercised or rested. He had a shower once every four days.
Around 60 to 70 soldiers lived in the waiting center, which was a converted unoccupied house. The center was the frequent target of Russian shelling.
NO COMBAT EXPERIENCE
Before coming to Ukraine, the volunteer worked in the construction industry. He had no military experience, such as through the Self-Defense Forces, and did not know anyone in Ukraine.
He left Japan alone without telling anyone, including family and friends, and arrived in Ukraine via a third country.
The Ukrainian military initially declined his request to join because of his lack of combat experience and foreign language skills.
He was eventually accepted with the help of another Japanese volunteer soldier he met online.
Asked why he volunteered to fight for Ukraine, he said: “I’ve always been the type of person who acts before thinking. When I learned through media reports that many women and children were being killed, I thought I wanted to help Ukraine.”
He received training in towns in central and northeastern Ukraine before being transferred to Izium.
MORE THAN 20,000 VOLUNTEERS
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in early March that more than 20,000 people from 52 countries had volunteered to fight for Ukraine.
Although the Japanese government has called on Japanese to refrain from going to Ukraine for any reason, a number of the volunteer soldiers were reportedly Japanese, including former SDF members.
Some have apparently set up social media accounts to describe their experiences in the front lines of the war.