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Ukraine Woman Plans to Send Manga to Children in Homeland, Seeks to Raise Money Through Crowdfunding Campaign

The Yomiuri Shimbun
From left, Gаlyna Ivanova, Kateryna Yavorska and Iryna Yavorska show Ukranian candles in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture.

HIKONE, Shiga — A 33-year-old Ukrainian woman living in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, has started a crowdfunding campaign to send original manga books to children in her home country.

Japanese high school students will draw the manga based on the true story of two brothers in the Ukrainian war zone, hoping to send a message that the world has not forgotten Ukraine.

Kateryna Yavorska and her husband Takashi Kikuchi, 30, took in Kateryna’s mother Iryna Yavorska, 52, and grandmother Gаlyna Ivanova, 82, after they fled Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine in March 2022. The couple bought a food truck by raising money through crowdfunding and offered Ukrainian dishes in various parts of Japan.

In May 2023, they opened a restaurant in Hikone.

With no end in sight to Russian aggression, Kateryna is worried about her 54-year-old father Roman and the many children who are living in the war-torn country.

When she contacted an organization that supports orphans in Ukraine, the organization’s representative Nazar Hrabar, 31, told her that he wanted Japanese people to draw a manga featuring him and his elder brother.

Hrabar and his brother fought on the front line, where he was shot and knocked unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he learned of his brother’s death. With his family members, he later established the orphan support organization, which bears the name of his late brother who loved children.

Thinking that children in Ukraine now tend to avoid sad news stories but might be willing to read manga, Hrabar asked Kateryna for help. “Please let Ukranian children learn through manga the bravery and depth of love shown by those who fought with desperate determination to protect their families, country and friends,” he said.

Kateryna and Kikuchi accepted the request and found two Japanese high school students who won a prize in an international student manga contest to draw the manga.

Beacon of hope

Kateryna and others are raising funds on the Campfire crowdfunding site until Feb. 25, aiming to raise ¥4 million. If they reach the goal, they will be able to send 10,000 copies of the manga to about 10,000 elementary schools across Ukraine.

Donations start from ¥500, and donors will receive a Japanese copy of the manga as a PDF file. Those who donate ¥2,000 or more will also receive handmade honey candles from Ukraine.

People involved in the project in both countries are asking people to light their candles at the same time when the war in Ukraine ends.

“I’ll be happy if this manga can deliver some hope to the children in Ukraine and help form a strong bond between them and the Japanese people,” Kateryna said. “My wish is to pass a beacon of hope from citizen to citizen, like the Olympic torch.”