I was truly relieved to know Fumiko met Mr. Sakama after coming back to Japan and was able to start a new happy family life. Also, she was surrounded by good people like Masa, her stepdaughter. With this new life and loving family, she was able to overcome her painful past. When we read the record of experiences from Siberian Detainment of the Japanese, we find many unfortunate stories that result in wrongful deaths. Among such stories, the happy ending of Fumiko’s return from ten years of lonely detainment in Siberia seems like such a heart-warming gift from heaven.
Fumiko was always logical, earnest and forgiving. She made constant effort and was full of a sense of responsibility. She was extremely modest, stuck to her will in order to get through any hardships, and she kept thinking using her best wisdom. She was also gifted in her observation of foreign cultures, foreigners and the observations of new situations. Such characteristics may have made it difficult for her to get used to the Japanese custom of following others in problem solving. However, without such strength, she would never have survived the many hardships by herself. I am in awe of her compassionate heart towards people who were in the same difficult situations as her, and the way she tried to give others hope. She was an open-minded person. In addition, she was linguistically very talented—she was able to articulate her thoughts and was able to write it clearly. I am so impressed with how courageous and strong of a woman she was.
When Fumiko was able to complete the difficult job to shovel the snow and was filled with appreciation to God, my eyes were filled with tears. This frail petite woman was living without hope in severely freezing weather, alone among other foreigners who did not speak Japanese, no family, and her freedom was stripped for a crime that she did not commit. I was amazed that amongst all this, she was still able to find appreciation in that moment without any complaints. I felt the beauty of her spirit which was pure and diligent and was only focused on how to cope with her most difficult trials. I wanted to say, “Fumiko, I am so happy for you that you were able to accomplish your task.” There are many sides to a human being, but one’s true qualities emerge at the most difficult time of life. When we can find a noble spirit in that time, it moves our hearts. After reading so much about the bitterness and astringency in her life, I felt as if I found a treasure and light in her writing.
I was born in 1951, four years before Fumiko came home from Siberia. I did not have any experience fearing air-raids during the war, and was born in Japan during a peaceful era. After the rigorous efforts to rebirth Japan from the defeat of WWll, the world seems as if it is embracing peace. However, as I look at my home country from far away in the United States, the seemingly stable Japanese life still seems to be in uncertainty in the ever-flowing dynamics of the international world. In this world, while there are people who can appreciate living a peaceful life every day, there are also people suffering in wars and have no place to live. Ms. Fumiko Akahane had no idea about her future when she was still in her teens, enjoying a happy free life with parents in Manchuria. The “present time” that we happen to live in is entirely by chance. Nobody can foresee the future. We should remember the life of one Japanese woman who was able to open her door to the future during the extreme difficulty she was thrown into. She did this by never losing hope and living through the pain and hardship with utmost effort of cultivating capabilities as one human being.
Written by Haruko Sakakibara
Photos : supplied by Masa Sakama
- Fumiko Akahane. (1955) Shiberiyajoshu no Shuki-Dasubidanya [Das Vidanya-Memorandam by a Female Prisoner in Siberia]. Tokyo:Jiyuajiasha.
- Fumiko Sakama. (1975) Setsugen ni Hitori Torawarete -Shiberia Yokuryu 10nen no Kiroku [Caught Alone in the Snow Field-Record of ten years of Siberian Detainment] . Tokyo: Kodansha.
- Fumiko Sakama.(2016) Setsugen ni Hitori Torawarete -Shiberia Yokuryu 10nen no Kiroku [Caught Alone in the Snow Field-Record of ten years of Siberian Detainment].Tokyo: Fukkann Dotto Com
- Fumiko Sakama.(1997) Ikinagaraete Yume [Dream after Survival]. Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Kankokai,