Japanese sisters fret over fate of Ukrainian fiances

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Erika Kamura, left, and her sister, Yurie, video chat with Erika’s fiance Volodymyr Goshovskyi in late February in Hachioji, Tokyo.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced apart two engaged couples.

Erika Kamura and her sister Yurie, who are both engaged to Ukrainian nationals, returned to Japan from Ukraine in 2020 and have since been unable to return to the country, where their fiances remain.

The sisters say they are concerned for the welfare of their partners and worry about the deteriorating situation in Ukraine.

Erika, 30, and Yurie, 27, grew up in Saitama Prefecture and are both professional pianists. To hone their skills, they enrolled at a graduate school of music in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in 2018.

The women met their intended husbands in 2019 at a Ukrainian government facility that was holding an event to introduce Japanese language and culture to locals.

Around that time, the novel coronavirus began spreading in Ukraine, forcing Kyiv residents to stay home.

Prior to the outbreak of the virus, the sisters often performed concerts in the country, but after infections began to take hold, public performances dwindled.

In the summer of 2020, the sisters told their partners they were planning to go back to Japan for a while. Both men subsequently proposed; both sisters accepted.

Upon returning to Japan for the first time in two years, Erika and Yurie stayed at their mother’s house in Hachioji, western Tokyo, and prepared the necessary documents for marriage. Their original plan had been to return to Ukraine the same year and register their marriages. However, their departure was repeatedly postponed as coronavirus infections took hold in Japan. Just as the sisters thought they might be able to return, Russia attacked Ukraine.

Erika’s fiance, Volodymyr Goshovskyi, 33, is employed by an education-based company in Kyiv. He recently enrolled in the Territorial Defense Forces and currently is responsible for arms control and street patrols in the western city of Lviv.

Since he joined in early March, Erika has been unable to speak with him via video chat. “I respect his commitment,” she said. “But, I haven’t been able to see his face, and my fears are growing.”

Yurie’s partner, Victor Serebrov, 29, is also based in Kyiv, and presently uses his knowledge of IT to help with government public relations.

Serebrov sends Yurie updates on social media, such as, “I heard an explosion.”

The women have decided to continue giving concerts as long as they remain in Japan. At the same time, they are spreading word of Ukraine’s idyllic grasslands, food and culture and raising awareness of the current situation in the country.

The sisters say it is heartbreaking to see the genial and kind people of Ukraine under attack, and expressed hopes that the war ends soon.