“I wish for this world to be filled with love and music.” – Maria Golomidova
Our first guest is photographer Maria Golomidova. You’ve brought your child today.
Yes. My son, Ko, is here with me. He is only 10 months old.
Maria, you were born in Russia, right?
Yes. I am here today as a Russian. I have been living in Japan for 18 years now. I am a photographer. Last year I had a baby and now I am a mother.
JESSE(a musician Maria has worked with in the past), who arrived at the venue just now, said, “Hey, Maria!” and hugged you, which I thought was a very nice sight.
As a photographer in the music business, I have several musicians who are my friends today. I also take Ko-chan to live concerts and festivals here and there. He’s my little assistant.
It’s been almost a month since the Russian invasion of Ukraine broke out. I bet you have really mixed feelings right now. I heard a little bit about you earlier, and I understand that you have friends in Ukraine.
I have a really close friend in Ukraine. I have relatives there, but I am not in touch with them at the moment. All my best friends have fled to other countries. Not only Ukrainians, but also some of my favorite Russian friends. My Ukrainian model friend whom I met in Japan is now fleeing with her whole family to Bucharest and Moldova, but her father is still in Ukraine, and every day she says, “I want to go back to Kiev.”
My Russian friend is fleeing to Turkey, but her husband and dog are too old to go anywhere, so they’ve been running away inside Ukraine. No one has been able to sleep for the past month, and they can’t do anything about it. I can’t sleep and I can’t do anything either, but it’s nothing compared to what the Ukrainians are going through. Ko-chan has saved me a lot, but it has been a very difficult month for me because I want to support the people in Ukraine and the more than 3 million people who have fled Ukraine, but I can’t do anything.
My Ukrainian friends, my friends in Bucharest, now really believe in love. They believe in peace. They never say anything harsh to me, and they tell me “I love you”. I believe now that those feelings are the most important.
I heard that you are in contact with your family and friends in Russia. How are living situations there?
My family lives in the suburbs, so they’re getting by. But of course, I’m still worried. And you never know when the internet connection will go down. That’s why I think this event is so wonderful. I want to do something for them, but I can’t do it myself. Ko-chan seems to agree with me.
This event is held not to condemn anyone, but to simply help those who are actually in need. Has anyone every said anything hard to you because you are Russian?
Not at all. On the contrary, I have received many messages from people saying, “My friendship with you will never change”. Other messages also say, “I understand. I know nations and personal relationships are different”.
My courageous friends in Russia are fighting. They go to anti-war demonstrations and take care of other people’s children. There are people whose lives are at risk because of this, and there are Russians who have lost everything. Of course, it is hard for Ukrainians. But Russians living in Ukraine have also been forced to join the war. I think it is natural that Ukrainians are angry at Russians, but I would like to help the ordinary Russians living in Ukraine who are also struggling, regardless of their nationality.
There are all kinds of Russians. There are bad people, but I think many of those who support the current Russian movement are threatened to do so, and I think many of them are being deceived. I am sure this will change in time. As Russia’s economy continues to deteriorate, I think that more and more people will come to understand what’s going on.
Undoubtedly, Ukrainians are in a very difficult situation, but what we tend to forget is that some people in Russia are also having difficulty making ends meet as economic sanctions take effect, and some people are losing their jobs as stores and businesses in the West pull out, right?
I agree. They can’t go overseas and run away. I want my mom in Russia to come to Japan, but I can’t go anywhere because I am taking care of my grandmother. Even if I wanted to go somewhere else, it wouldn’t be easy because there are no planes flying into Japan. Besides, there are many people who have lost their jobs, all their savings, and their children. Now that young boys are being sent [to war], it affects them in many ways and on many levels.
When war breaks out, it’s always the civilians, especially the weak, who pay the price.
Yes, that’s true. Probably many Russians are feeling very sorry right now. I think they can’t sleep every day. Many of them are depressed. There are so many people, including myself, who feel sorry for Ukraine. I hope you know that there are people like that.
We hope that peace will come to both Ukraine and Russia through this event, “PLAY FOR PEACE”.
Thank you. I hope peace will come to both Ukraine and Russia soon.
By the way, Maria, I heard you’ve been taking music-related photos. What kind of music do you like?
I like various genres. I like jazz, blues, and rap, too. It’s not that I like everything, but music is what has kept me alive. If it weren’t for music, I wouldn’t be in Japan, and decided to stay here. My husband is also a musician. So it’s not an exaggeration to say that if it weren’t for music, this baby would not have been born.
What bands do you think are cool in Russian music?
I don’t know that much about the recent Russian music scene, but there is a band I admire that a Japanese musician friend of mine loves. It’s a punk band called Leningrad, who sings satirical and anti-war songs. Also there’s Monetochka, a young female singer who is very popular these days. Her lyrics are deep, but there are a lot of metaphors, so you may not get the message. During the Soviet era, there were many bands that criticized politics, and they all used metaphors to hide their true meaning when creating rock music. I think those times are coming back again.
There are many Japanese musicians here today, and it makes me feel that music can transcend national borders and save us from many problems.
Yes, it does. I think music is really wonderful. It saves us.
What do you think we in Japan can do?
I wish that people can treat each other with love. Hatred is the most painful thing. I feel that anger and hatred really weigh this world down. I want this world to be filled with love and music.
(Ko-chan moves around freely.) I hope that those days will come back for Russia and Ukraine, when small children could play like this without worrying about anything.
I hope it will come soon. I can only hope. I can only pray.
Today, many people are watching the live stream and many comments are coming in. Maria, could you give us a message to wrap up?
Everyone, let’s pray for peace. That’s all I can really say. Thank you.
Photographer. Born in Russia in 1982, she started studying the Japanese language and culture at the age of 8. After graduating from Ural State University (Faculty of Philosophy, Sociolinguistics) in 2005, she came to Japan as a research student. In 2009, she completed her master’s degree in Tokyo University. Since 2007, she has been working as a photographer in Japan, mainly for tourism and music magazines, music festivals, live concerts, artist photos, CD jackets, etc. She has also been working as an official photographer for various music festivals every year since 2007. She also travels around Japan and abroad as a booking manager, interpreter, and tour guide. She has photographed numerous artists including Masayoshi Yamazaki, Shuya Okino, Saki Takaoka, and Shinji Miyake.
『Naoshite tsugi ni watasu』Seiko Ito is the poet
『Peace In The World』James Brown
“I always want to think from the minority’s perspective” – Karin Amamiya
You have been in war zones before, haven’t you?
To be exact, I went to Iraq in February 2003 just a month before the war started.
What was Iraq like at the time?
It was a time when the U.S. military was deployed and the war in Iraq could break out at any minute. There was an evacuation order for Japanese nationals, but anti-war activists were gathering from all over the world to oppose the war shouting not to drop bombs there. People called the situation a “human shield”. I went to Iraq in 2003 with this in mind.
My first visit to Iraq was in 1999, eight years after the Gulf War. In the Gulf War, depleted uranium shells, which are nuclear waste converted into weapons, were used in combat for the first time. Eight years later, children were dying of leukemia and childhood cancer in Iraq. But because of economic sanctions, no medicine was coming into Iraq at all.
There’s a lot of things we wouldn’t know unless we went there in person. We can see various fragments of information about the invasion of Ukraine through the screens, but I think there are things happening there that we can’t even imagine. What do you think we should be imagining behind the news?
Today (March 23), President Zelensky gave a speech in the Japanese Diet, and afterwards Akiko Santo, the President of the House of Councilors, made a statement praising the people of Ukraine for fighting for their country despite risking their own lives. When I saw that, I thought, “What?”. Because I think that both Russian and Ukrainian people equally should think about those who cannot and will not fight. For example, there must be people in Ukraine who are disabled.
Right after the invasion began, President Zelensky signed a general mobilization decree, and men between the ages of 18 and 60 were banned from leaving the country, right? So most of the artists performing at this event today would be banned from leaving the country if they were in Ukraine. At that time, I wondered what would happen to those who are sick or disabled. Then there are those who don’t want to fight. For example, there was an article in Newsweek about a man who said he wanted to be with his wife, but the Ukrainian soldiers accused him of being a coward. When you look at that kind of thing, you can see how people who can’t fight are treated in emergencies.
For example, there’s a book called “Living the Incoherent Language” (Hiroki Arai, Kashiwa Shobo) which describes how people were treated in Japan during the World War II. There are many examples of people with disabilities in this book. For example, a teacher at a school for children with disabilities, who had been praised as a wonderful educator, was called unpatriotic when the war broke out. The disabled children were called “rice eaters” and “unpatriotic,” and during the war, the disabled children were evacuated to Nagano. At that time, cyanide was given to them by the military at the evacuation site. They were told to commit suicide. In this way, in times of emergency, there are people who think that it was patriotic to denounce people who cannot fight or who are useless in war. War made people call those unable to fight, “unpatriotic,” “rice eaters,” “useless,” or “a shame to imperial Japan.”
There was a facility for leprosy at the time, and one person with leprosy committed suicide by seppuku, saying, “I’m sorry to have such a shameful disease.” Another leper wrote a poem praising war. ＜Teppo, teppo! / Machine gun, machine gun! Let’s all write a petition in blood! ＞(from Heikichi Mitsui’s “Onegahimasu Teppo o Negahisasu Teppo wo” (6th series)), which supported war. This leper is sick, so obviously he cannot go to war. The reason why he wrote these poems is because the social atmosphere would not forgive those who were considered useless in war if they did not express support for the war, and some even went so far as to say they will kill people themselves if they didn’t have the disease. Therefore, in the book “Living the Incoherent Language,” it is written that many literary works by people with disabilities at the time praised the war. I understand that feeling deeply, that people fighting for their motherland in Ukraine are wonderful. But when such an atmosphere is created, I think it is very dangerous if we don’t also consider the oppression of those who can’t fight and those who oppose the war.
I have just written a manuscript titled “War and the Disabled,” and it’s clear that war creates many disabled people. Not only physical disabilities, but also mental disabilities. For example, in the book “Thank You For Your Service” (written by David Finkel and translated by Midori Furuya, Aki Shobo), it is reported that 500,000 of the 2 million soldiers who returned from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars suffer from mental disabilities, and 250 people commit suicide every year. Considering this, we are creating a huge number of people with both physical and mental disabilities, and in addition, about 15,000 people are now imprisoned in Russia because they opposed the war. What will happen to these people, too? I wonder. When times move in one direction, there will be people who won’t fit into that. …… Well, it’s like all the people who are gathered here today are going to be shot dead. They all say they are against the war, and they are all musicians, people who are unlikely to be useful in war. Their voices will be the first to be crushed.
There are problems on the side that started the war, but there is always the other question of whether resorting to war is the solution for the other side. I think somewhere along the line we have to come up with a different approach. If someone points a gun at you, you take the gun. I can’t deny that psychology, but if we do that, as Ms. Amamiya said, more people will be killed.
And perhaps those who would be called “weak” will be the first to be sacrificed, and the war will create even more “weak” people. We have to seriously consider how we can follow up on that.
Yes. Today, President Zelensky said, “We will continue to impose sanctions on Russia.” Many Japanese public opinion polls also indicate that economic sanctions should be more severe. I am not an expert on economic sanctions, so I do not know in detail what effect they will have on the government and the general public in Russia, but the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the words “economic sanctions” is the sight of children dying before my eyes in Iraq because no medicine was delivered to hospitals due to sanctions. I wonder how much the people who are calling for “tougher sanctions” in the polls know about the specifics of what “tougher sanctions” brings about. But that’s something we don’t know much about. There are polls asking, “Do you think the economic sanctions are working on Russia?”. But there is no way for us to know that. I think that if we impose sanctions on Russia, the poorest, weakest, sickest, and disabled people in Russia will be the victims again.
Please give us your final message.
No one can complain about today’s theme, humanitarian aid. I would like to do various things in the form of humanitarian aid. I talked about people with disabilities in Ukraine, but I think there are also situations in Russia where people are very oppressed if they show a stance of not fighting because of illness or disability, so I always want to think from the minority’s perspective.
Born in Hokkaido in 1975. Writer and activist. After working as a vocalist in a patriotic punk band, she made her debut in 2000 with an autobiographical essay. Since then, she has published works on the difficulties of life. “Let Us Live! Youth Turning into Refugees” (Ota Publishing Co., Ltd.). Since then, she has published several books and traveled to Iraq and North Korea. Since 2006 she has been involved in issues of inequality and poverty and the movement to end nuclear power generation. “Youths to Refugees” (Ota Publishing Co., Ltd.), published in 2007, won the JCJ Award (Japan Congress of Journalists Award). She is also a sponsor of the Anti-Poverty Network. She is the author of many books, including “Bangaru a gogo” (Kodansha), “The Corona Disaster, A Record of Poverty: In 2020, the Bottom of the Country Slips Out” (Kamogawa Publishing), and “Shadow of the Festival: 2020-2021 A Walk Along the Archipelago of COVID and the Olympics” (Iwanami Shoten).
『LIKE AN ANGEL』KIYOHARU
“I believe that you all need the power of music and art!” – ATSUSHI ＆ Nataliya Gudziy
ATSUSHI, thank you very much for this time.
ATSUSHI : It’s my pleasure. If I am needed, I will fly anywhere.
And I am meeting you for the first time, but you and ATSUSHI have performed together several times, haven’t you, Nataliya Gudziy?
ATSUSHI : Yes, we met through the 3.11 project, and we worked together several times in Tohoku as Natachan (Nataliya) and A-chan (ATSUSHI) (laughs).
Since you are from Ukraine, I assume that you have friends, relatives and family still in Ukraine.
Nataliya : It’s actually my 23rd year in Japan and I have a lot of family, friends, relatives and people in Ukraine who have been very kind to me and I really worry about them and their lives every day. It has become a routine for me to call or e-mail them every day to make sure they are safe and sound.
So they are still in a situation where they have access to phone calls, emails, and the internet?
Nataliya : Yes, they do. In some towns it is difficult to get a connection, and there are still many people I know that I have not been able to reach. There are some interruptions, but so far, we have been able to keep in touch with most of my family and friends.
You are holding in your hand the bandura instrument that you just played for us, right?
Nataliya : Yes, it is. It is a Ukrainian folk instrument. I’m holding it with one hand, but it actually weighs 8 kg(17.6 lbs). I’m pretty powerful (laughs).
ATSUSHI : How many strings does it have?
Nataliya: The number of strings varies slightly from instrument to instrument, but the one I use has 63.
I know some of us here heard the sound for the first time in the performance you just gave, but is it a musical instrument similar to the koto in Japan?
Nataliya : Yes. Because it’s a folk instrument, it’s difficult to encounter this instrument unless someone, even a Ukrainian, has a close relative or acquaintance who plays this instrument. It’s not a common instrument at home like the piano or guitar. It really is like a koto.
ATSUSHI : Did you bring it to Japan from Ukraine?”
Nataliya : Yes. You can’t find it in Japan. It’s a very precious instrument that is hard to find even in Ukraine.
What kind of message did you put into the first song you played, Sada Masashi’s “Sakimori no Uta”?
Nataliya : First, I wanted to express how thankful I am from the bottom of my heart for being invited here. Thank you so much for calling on me.”
ATSUSHI : Nacchan, thank you so much for coming today. It would be an exaggeration to say that I was a little cautious, but I know that Nataliya must have received many stories in these times, and I thought she must have many feelings, but since we are friends, I gathered up my courage and called her (laughs). I said, “There is an event called ‘PLAY FOR PEACE’ and I was wondering if Nataliya would like to be a part of it.” She said yes, and for me, I simply wanted to meet my friend Nataliya. Also, I really wanted to thank you for coming today.”
Nataliya : Thank you very much. Right now, people in Ukraine, and people who speak Russian, and many other people are going through a really hard, sad, and painful time. In such a situation, if my performance can be an opportunity for people to think about peace, for people to feel closer to Ukraine, and for each one of them to think about how to end this war, I will be really happy and put my heart and soul into it. I would like to sing with all my heart. That is how I felt when I participated in the event today, and I chose the music and performed it with those feelings in mind, and ATSUSHI-kun danced with me.
It was a wonderful collaboration.
ATSUSHI : I requested the song “My Kiev”. I read the poem and danced to it with my own feelings. I was happy if the music and dance could express something that transcended race and other differences. I feel like I was able to do that this time, and I thought, “Nataliya, you did a great job.”
Nataliya, you were born in Ukraine, where was the place you were born?
Nataliya : I was born in a place called Dnipropetrovsk, which I think is the name you sometimes hear on the news. My father had to work at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, so my family moved to a town called Pripyat, which is very close to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, when I was very young. After the nuclear accident, I lived as an evacuee in various places, and finally took refuge in Kiev, where I stayed until I came to Japan.
It has just been 11 years since the 3.11 earthquake in Japan, and I was shocked to know that nuclear facilities were targeted in the recent invasion of Ukraine. I am sure that Nataliya, who experienced the Chernobyl nuclear accident as a child, can specifically imagine what would happen if nuclear facilities were hit, but what was the damage to your hometown caused by the nuclear accident like?
Nataliya : I lived 3.5 kilometers from the nuclear power plant and was then eventually evacuated to Kiev. The area in Kiev where I evacuated to was full of children who had been exposed to radiation just like me. There were many children at school who had been exposed to radiation, and many in my neighborhood as well, and they were growing up with some kind of health problems. Some had diseases that were not visible to the naked eye, some had leukemia, some had cancer, and there were many other diseases depending on the child. These children are now adults and have children, and the next generation will be affected. The accident happened 36 years ago, but it is not a story that has ended.
In that sense, I was very sad when the nuclear accident happened in Fukushima. It was so sad that the children of Fukushima had to go through what I went through. Ａｓ I saw myself in them, I am working through this bandura performance and singing to convey to them the courage to live and the hope to live somehow. Of course, I also consider it my life’s work to tell people about Chernobyl. I believe that everyone needs the power of music and art to give hope to the many people who are suffering in Ukraine right now, so that they can overcome the situation. I hope that through today’s event we will be able to convey this to many people.
ATSUSHI san, you have been holding events in the areas affected by the 3.11 disaster for a long time, and I think you have always felt the power of music and the power of people’s wishes and thoughts.
ATSUSHI : Yes, that’s true. I can’t say anything great, but I would be happy if art and culture can play a small role in this regard. The other day, 11 years have passed since 3.11, and I think it is necessary to continue telling stories. I felt very much that continuing to tell the story may be a role we can play, after 11 years have passed. I felt the same way when I heard Nataliya ‘s story now. And I am glad that Nataliya and I are friends. If a friend is feeling sad, I can reach out to them and say, “Are you okay?” and I hope we can all live with compassion.
The other day, when I visited a symposium by Shigenori Kanehira of TBS, who has covered Ukraine and Belarus, he told me that when he visited a large Catholic church in Belarus, he found soil from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima buried there. In this way, the people of Belarus, who experienced the nuclear accident, are also thinking about Japan. They are such a country and such people. And I vaguely think that there are things that Japan, which suffered from the same nuclear accident, can do to help. It is almost time for me to wrap up. Could you add some last comments?
ATSUSHI : Though this is so a simple thing, I hope we can live with consideration for each other’s lives.
Nataliya : On behalf of Ukraine, I would like to express my sincere gratitude regarding the support given to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. I would be very happy if you continue to think and pray for the people of Ukraine continuously.
Born in 1980 in Ukraine. She is a singer and bandura player. At the age of 6, she was exposed to radiation at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, only 3.5 km from the plant, when an explosion occurred at dawn on April 26, 1986, where her father was working. After that, she moved from place to place as an evacuee and settled in the city of Kiev. In 2000, while studying at a Japanese language school, she began a full-fledged musical career in Japan.
Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1979, he started street dancing in 1996 and performed in various events and live performances. For 20 years since 2001, he was a member of the band Dragon Ash. In 2006, he traveled around Asia, Europe and America to perform as a solo dancer, and has experience being an ambassador for the Russian culture Festival. In 2009, he founded “POWER of LIFE,” a project to promote the beauty and preciousness of life force, and he is now working as a representative of this project.
『Sakimori no Uta』Masashi Sada
『Song of the Birds』Nataliya Gudziy
■『PLAY FOR PEACE vol.1』will be streamed on YouTube until mid-June 2022.