As soon as I was released from the three year of life as an internee in the Soviet Union in August, 1948, I thought about writing my record of experience of interment in the Soviet Union, but I could not do it. It was because Japan was under the Military administration by the Allies back then, and I was spending extremely busy days for the assessment of the budget of the budget bureau. It was 1993 when I published a collection of short stories, titled as “from the forest in Tatar.” The main story was the same title as the book, “from the forest in Tatar,” which was a love story between an internee in the Soviet Union and a Russian girl in the form of a letter.
On this occasion, I decided to publish a non fiction record of life as an internee, which I have been jotting down for a long period of time. There were actually more things I wanted to include, but decided to end here trying not to make it too lengthy.
I am making it a point to go to Moscow every September in order to run the Japan-Russia Symposium. I meet case officers in the Foreign Ministry, Domestic Ministry and Ministry of Army affairs, and continue to request the implementation of the Japan-Russo Agreement in regards to the formerly interned in the Soviet Union.
The Russian side does not fulfill the execution of items defined in the treaty such as presentation of the name list of the formerly interned, especially those who died. They don’t take care of the administration of the cemetery either. That is why we cannot keep silent.
As a result of our activities in Moscow, we accomplished the receipt of all of the copies (microfilm) of individual files of the formerly interned. The action was originated in the event in 1988, when we were shown the huge numbers of existing files of German soldiers (they said there were 2,000,000) in the Central Military archive library. That prompted us to demand the copies of the Japanese, and then the matter was taken to a better direction.
Back then, the Russians claimed they did not have any personnel, machines, or budget for wages for this work. So we proposed that the Japanese side will take care of the expense. We took it from the budget of the Ministry of Health and Welfare. To our surprise, the Russians told us they wanted the microfilm as well. Therefore, we asked for the budget to take care of that matter as well. It was just like the Japanese proverb, “we can not win the crying baby and the lord of a manor.
Since the management of the cemeteries were not good at all, we decided to collect the remains to take back to Japan. Then the importance of building the monument to comfort the souls of the deceased was brought up. So we negotiated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and decided to build such monuments in thirty main cemeteries. The expense for all the construction was the responsibility of the Japan side. 2,500,000 yen was allocated for each monument.
The first one was built in Yelabuga where I was, and I did the inscription. However, it has been taking time to work with the groups in each district, and we have only finished building nine more, and the rest are still in negotiation. I am very concerned because the situation can change so quickly when something happens to people in charge. Then, the projects like this can be abandoned. However, I cannot do anything about it because we have to work with the people in Russia who do not respond as we expect. All I can do is to do the best I can.
Russia has changed. Especially, Moscow has changed tremendously. When I went to Moscow in September two years ago, casino town called “little Lass Vegas” emerged in Russia, with bright illumination in the town. However, that town totally disappeared in September the following year, becauses Putin prohibited Casinos.
In the town, people were driving around in Mercedes Benz, and there were shops after shops with expensive European brand merchandise. I heard that Moscow was the town where expensive Benz were sold most in all of Europe: tremendously rich people were appearing in that town. It dawned on me that the structure of this country remains exactly the same— only a handful of people have been fully enjoying their fortune throughout the time of Imperialism and the Soviet era.
Before, we could only find small amount of fish with red eyes in the markets and shops, but now, there is merchandise everywhere. I could not believe the amount of chocolate they were selling!
The sudden increases of the value of oil seems to have brought quite a bit of income to Russia, where oil exists. Perhaps, that’s why I feel the attitudes of the officials of each bureau are a bit condescending. I guess any human being changes attitude when they have more money.
When I mentioned, “don’t you think it is a good time now to pay us the wages for our forced labor because the income for the country of Russia is increasing now,” the high official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a bitter smile.
At any rate, I would like to show my heartfelt appreciation to President Kai, Mr. Kadoya and many others at Bunkasha for helping me publish this record of experiences of internment. Especially, I have special appreciation for those who supported the editing process.