Portraits of Ukrainian kids who fled war to be displayed at Omotesando Station

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A stuffed bear produced by Yokohama-based Star Jewelry Co. for Ukrainian children

Photographs of Ukrainian children who fled to Japan following the Russian invasion of Ukraine will be displayed at Omotesando Station in Tokyo next month as part of efforts to raise awareness of the conflict.

“I want people to be aware of the fact that children are suffering because of the prolonged invasion,” said Naotaka Miyamoto, who took the photographs.

Miyamoto, 61, has been a photographer for about 20 years ago, and has worked on corporate advertisements, as well as capturing images of Paralympic athletes, frontline medical workers and people facing social issues.

Photos Miyamoto had taken of Ukrainian residents in Japan were displayed at Omotesando Station in April.

The January display was proposed by Yokohama-based Star Jewelry Co. to raise public awareness of the suffering faced by Ukrainian children because of the invasion.

The company produced 1,000 stuffed toy bears in the colors of the Ukrainian flag for children who have fled to Japan or who have been displaced in Ukraine since the outbreak of war.

Naotaka Miyamoto

At a photo studio in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Nov. 20 and 27, Miyamoto photographed 21 Ukrainian children, who posed with the stuffed toys.

Some of the children, who were aged 1-13, smiled and played with the stuffed animals, while others were noticeably silent, perhaps a sign of the stress they have endured since Russia launched the invasion.

“I interpreted various emotions in the young children’s faces. Not only sadness at being separated from family members and anger about the invasion, but also strength as they strive to survive,” Miyamoto said.

Lana Hutianko, 44, fled Kyiv and arrived in Tokyo, in May. She visited the studio with her 7-year-old daughter Eva, hoping that the photos would raise awareness of the fact that many children have been forced to leave their homeland because of the conflict.

Lana said her daughter had many friends in Ukraine and always smiled at kindergarten but Eva’s facial expression has darkened since the invasion began.

They initially stayed at a hotel in Chiba Prefecture until November, and during that time Eva was unable to go to school. Lana bought Eva many stuffed animals as her daughter had few opportunities to make friends with other children in Japan. Her new “friends” brought her smile back.

“I like the stuffed bear the best,” Eva said. “It’s cute and matches the color of the national flag.”

Miyamoto’s photos will be displayed on a 30-meter wall in an underground passageway of Omotesando Station on Jan. 9-15.