Author: Lilia Tiazhka for LilkaSky

Get to Japan from Ukraine

On the day when Russia invaded my homeland, I woke up at dawn from the roar of low-flying, seemingly under the windows, military planes. My house is near the airport, but such dawn sounds are quite unusual and the annoying feeling that something is wrong, did not leave.

The morning of February 24, 2022, began all over Ukraine with alarm: the explosions woke up the population of most regional centers and the news of the start of the war caught me in the business center of the city. A large black cloud of smoke rose into the sky from the airport, and sirens sounded. I couldn’t believe the reality of what was happening, as if in slow motion: the janitor in front of me put down the broom on the sidewalk, took out his glasses and mobile phone, looked at me, and said that something was wrong. Some around me also did not understand what was happening and recorded the black smoke after the explosions with their phones, and some people ran away and here I seemed to wake up and ran faster to the car. Panic and traffic jams on the road. This was the first alarm, and how many were still ahead.

Then events unfolded rapidly. On the first day, my husband volunteered to defend northeastern Ukraine, which was attacked by the Russian army. Schools have announced forced vacations for an unknown period of time, and long queues have formed in shops, stores, and gas stations. Watching and listening to the news took on new meaning, and everyone watched as Russia went on the offensive and ruthlessly attacked Ukrainian settlements, killing locals and destroying ordinary homes. We began to find out where the bomb shelters were, and it turned out that most of them existed on the map, but were actually buried or given over to commercial premises. Therefore, during the alarm and the howling of sirens, people went down to their own converted basements or remained in a relatively “safe place”: between the load-bearing walls of the house, usually near the hanger.

Against this background, neighboring countries have opened their borders to refugees from Ukraine and simplified customs control: Poland alone is estimated to have let in about two million Ukrainians since the war with Russia.

Why I decided to seek temporary shelter in Japan

The decision to leave Ukraine was not easy for me, because, as you know, I did not go anywhere all my life, only for tourist purposes and short trips. Here is my land, my home, garden, apple orchard, Etnocook project, my village-style oven for baking the sourdough bread, work, LilkaSky office, family. Even the air around is native and healing.

But when there were reports of Russian seizures of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, shelling of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, and the threat of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons against civilians, the decision was made, because I am responsible not only for myself but also for my underage son.

I chose Japan not by chance. As you know, I have been conducting an educational project Japan Travels (Mandrivky Yaponiyeyu) for almost ten years, in which I describe the culture, traditions, and customs of the country of the Rising Sun. In addition, Japan has declared its support for Ukraine, condemns Russia’s attack, and is ready to provide shelter to people in Ukraine and simplify strict rules of entry and stay for people from my country.

The long road to the Japanese Embassy in Ukraine (moved to Poland)

As it turned out during the collection of necessary documents, the Embassy of Japan in Ukraine was evacuated from Kyiv to the Polish capital Warsaw.

I hastily finished the main tasks in my homeland, packed up together with my son two backpacks with the most necessary things and one slightly larger one with books and embroidered shirts, and went to the border with Poland. The pedestrian crossing in Shehyni was announced as a free and fast way to get to the EU, but in reality, everything was completely different.

When we got to our destination in the afternoon, we stood in a long line of people of different ages, from different regions, and I was accompanied by people from Volnovakha, the Sumy region, and Zakarpattia.

The way was usually overcome by families, with older and younger children, who carried suitcases and pets, on a cloudy day, and then in the cold.

Moved at a speed of several steps every 15-20 minutes, a total of ten hours, warming up tea from volunteers who helped in this way to go almost all the way.

Actually, the customs control was passed in the shortest possible time, and free buses and other public transport were organized from the Polish city of Medina.

So I got to the Warsaw train station and found a lot of refugees fleeing Russian aggression. A volunteer headquarters in Poland worked for them around the clock, providing consultations, searching for housing, and organizing meals.

Without lingering in this place, we moved on.

Away from Russian aggression in Ukraine: go to see Japan

Our goal was to get to the Japanese embassy, so we went on and later arrived at our destination. My documents were received very quickly and I was told to wait for a call.

Since the next day was Friday, it was decided to call back on my own, and calling the hotline, and later the Japanese Embassy in Poland got the information that the visas are ready, so I went to get them. The procedure is actually simplified beyond recognition, Japan has kept its promise to the fullest.

Fly to Japan: the way of a refugee from Ukraine

After receiving the documents, I immediately went to the airport to take a test for the COVID and buy tickets. The fact is that Japan requires COVID tests to be completed on special forms, which are done exclusively in several laboratories (one of them was located near the airport). It was also necessary to buy a plane ticket yourself, and there is almost no choice for this in the airport, given the time constraints of the validity of the test. But in the end, everything was done with the help of family and relatives and here I am on a plane with a transfer in Turkey.

By the way, the global condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is very clear in the example of airports: crowds of Russians who could not fly anywhere wandered the halls in both Poland and Turkey.

After a short wait, we boarded our plane, which was circling the runway for a long time due to icing and bad weather conditions. Finally, the last eleven-hour period separated me from the Land of the Morning Sun.

Upon arrival in Japan had to fill out many forms, most of them related to COVID-19. Mandatory quarantine, installation of special applications, and other specific nuances await all visitors, read about it later in Japan Travel.

Author: Lilia Tiazhka for LilkaSky