Compared to those who experienced the end of war in Japan and those who could go back to Japan rather early from outside Japan, the detainees in Siberia definitely went throughadisadvantageous experience. Even after they came home, most of them refrained from gathering with other former detainees except for really close groups. The detainees were barelyable to securea livelihood to take care of their families. However, since the end of the occupation of Japan, (April, 1952), gathering of the former detaineeshave increased.
Former military people who were restrictedunder the rein of the allied forces began to come out to the surface of society on the occasion such as the foundation of the reserve corps of the police in 1950. Those who were in the same army units eating the rice from the same rice cooker, and those who went through hardships together began to gather here and there to share their memories.
Among the former detainees in theSovietUnion,such understanding that they were the ones that were thrown into the worst condition began to be confirmed, and some leading people began to appealfor the necessity of saying something to the Soviet government.
I wonder when the Yelabuga Association for the residents of Tokyo was established. After that,a Yelabuga Association was made in Kinki and Nagoya district and so forth.
There was a unique activity in the Yelabuga Association in Tokyo. There was a famous sculptor, Masahiko Yamamoto, among the officers detainedin Yekabuga. He curved a Bodhisattva of Compassion while he was there, and carefullybrought it back to Japan. Therefore, the association began to have a worship service with it. It began to be called “Yelabuga Buddha” which was kept in the Unshoji Temple where one of the detainees, Mr.Shinsho Shaku, was serving as a monk.
Initially, this association was aiming at maintainingfriendships,but gradually, more voices were heard to state the improvement of their treatments. Based on such a movement, official associations were formed in various districts, and in 1979, an official association was created. It had a long name: Japan Central Association of Council of Promoting Demand for the Compensation of the Formerly Forcefully Interned after the War. (It will be called Zenyokukyo after this.)
I was elected to become the president of this association and have been serving for a long time. The reason it took time for us to come up with such an association was due to the emotional scar that everyone had-they did not want to bring the memory of Siberia back.
Around us, a few movements were happening. One was the beginning of the payment of pension for the soldiers. Also, repatriates from Manchuria were beginning to form a group, seeking compensation for what they had to leave behind.
Therefore, we were spontaneously influenced to begin our movement.
Zenyokukyo, therefore, is an association to fight with the demand. Additionally, however, another Zenyokukyo (translated as Japan Association of Forced Internees for this association) was formed based on 50,000,000 yen that was allocated for this specific purpose when the foundation of prayer for peace was established, and I have been the president ever since. This association works as a representative of the government. It is given a function to support what the government does for the formerly interned people in theSovietUnion. Therefore, the ability of political actions is limited.