Back Agan to Yelabuga

On September 22nd 1995, I was invited to participate in the unveiling ceremony of the newly constructed monument for the formerly interned Japanese who diedbefore they were able to come home.  It took place in Khavarovsk.  I was a representative of the Japan Association of Forced Internees.  This association,to console the spirits of the dead in World War II, an incorporated foundation, made the monument with the financial assistance of the Japanese government.  With additional private donations, an adjacent park was also constructednext to it.

The lot was donated by the city of Khavarovsk. The late Congressman Toya went to the city and negotiated with their representatives tenaciously before they finally decided on the current site on top of a hill.  Until he went, another site that was located in swampy lowland withabad view was in the planning.   

Since I was invited to Khavarovsk, I was hoping there would also be an opportunity to revisit Yelabuga.  Then, timely enough, a plan to have a Japan-Soviet symposium in Moscow around the same time as my trip.  

There was another symposium in Moscow in 1994.  During that time, ourboard chairman, Mr. Aoki participated in it in order to have a discussion about the issues of the formerly interned Japanese with Russian representatives.  However, they went into a heated discussionofif the interned Japanese were prisoners of war or not.  

I had a feeling it would not be possible to make an end to the conflicts including this topic, but I thought it would be a good occasion to participate in it anyway.  

I was successful to create a few days in-between the symposium in Moscow and the unveiling ceremony in Khavarovsk, so I decided to visit Yelabuga fifty years after I left.  I don’t recallif there was any positive memory, but at the same time, I wanted to make sure with my eyes to see the internment barrack where I had lived three years of hardship.  I wondered if the place had changed or not.  As I made a decision to visit the place again, I decided to invite my wife to go with me.  I don’t know if she really wanted to come or not, but she probably hadacertain interest, and agreed to come with me.  

Before that occasion, I was asked to go to Yelabuga along with other groups to visit the graveyards a few times by people like Mr. Togashi and Mr. Itagaki, who were the leadersof such groups. My schedule did not allowfor me to go, however.  I also had a feeling that I did not want to share my experiences as a former internee because the memory at that time was not a good one at all.  That’s why I was going back and forth deciding if I really wanted to go to Yelabuga or not.  

However, fifty years after the time I was confined as an interneeinthe SovietUnion, this seemed to be the last chance to go back there.  Therefore, I decided to go to Yelabuga this time, with the main people from Japan Association of Forced Internees (not the ones who were in Yelabuga) along with my wife.  

Our guide was Mr. Kirichenko from the Research Institution of Oriental studies. He was a passionate supporter of our activities.  As a result, ourgroup this time became seven of us: Director of the Board, Mr. and Mrs. Aoki, Mr. Suzuki, the trustee, Interpreter, Ms. Ishizaki, Mr. Kirichenko, my wife and I.  

On August seventh, the airplane that left Moscow arrived at Kazan in two hours.

I had been to the town of Kazan three times during my internment. First, as I have stated before, was when I was put into prison.  Next, I went there to receive food with Sergent Gaidarov.  The third time was when I worked to pack food into the cargo car and so forth for my forced labor duringthe two months before getting onto the Siberian railway.