On Aug 16, the Ukrainian embassy in Tokyo received a frantic email.
"Please assist me in getting back to Ukraine as soon as possible," it read. "I don't want to be in this country any more. I'm on the verge of a physical and mental breakdown. I can't stand the attitude of Japanese toward foreigners. Please help me."
The mail, reports Shukan Post (Oct 7-14), was from "Olena" (a pseudonym), a woman in her 30s from the northern part of Ukraine. She had been one of 20 refugees who arrived in Japan last April 5 aboard a government flight arranged by Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi.
Upon arrival, she had been settled in an agricultural area, where her story had received considerable coverage in the mass media.
"Everybody is so kind," she had bubbled happily at the time, smiling for the cameras. "The first thing I want to do is start learning Japanese."
But just four months later, she had sent an SOS to her embassy. And two days after that, she flew back to her war-torn country.
What on earth could have happened, to change her feelings to that degree?
According to Immigration Bureau figures current to September 14, since last March Japan has admitted 1,882 Ukrainian refugees. Of these, 78 have already exited Japan. Why so soon?
"Problems among refugees are being reported, among which has been failure by guarantors to provide them with support," the responsible person at the bureau informed Shukan Post.
While guarantors in principle guarantee a foreigner's means of sustenance, return fare to their home country and conformity to the laws of Japan, they are not legally bound to do so. In most cases a guarantor sponsors a family member or acquaintance, but such is not the case for refugees, who as in Olena's case, they had never met prior to their arrival in Japan.
Mr T, her Japanese guarantor, a man in his 50s with a medical degree, works as an associate professor at an unnamed university. He was a key figure in organizing donations for Ukrainian refugees.
As it turned out, Olena would inhabit the same house as her guarantor, which was situated in a remote mountainous district.
After returning to Ukraine, she was later contacted online and told her interviewer, "Mr T was my guarantor, but to be honest, I didn't want to live under the same roof with him. Not having any other options, though, I felt I had to go along with it."
As she was dependent of Mr T's movements to go anyplace, Olena was only able to spend a single two-hour session per week at Japanese language school.
To communicate with her host, she used a palm-sized language interpreter device.
Since T's residence did not have internet connections, she finally bought a smartphone to enable text communications with her parents back in Ukraine.
About 75% of the 1,882 Ukrainian refugees in Japan are said to be female. And in cases where their Japanese guarantor is male, it is by no means unthinkable that romance might blossom. Which is precisely what happened between Olena and Mr T, about 45 days after her arrival.
"He first came on to me," she insisted. "But I liked him well enough. We began sleeping in the same room. There was nobody else around, and I wanted someone to protect me."
Shukan Post also contacted Mr T to ask about what had transpired.
"I'm a bachelor," he replied. "There was a psychological aspect to this, and then our passions were stirred.
"I was actually thinking along the lines of a marriage relationship," he added. "However, it was beyond jealousy that she repeatedly kept checking my phone messages without my permission. There were no hickeys (love bites) in any of those emails to me. It was pure paranoia on her part.
"I'm convinced she was suffering from PTSD; just the sound of wind whistling made her think of air raid sirens. She would even start hallucinating."
If Olena's sojourn seems a brief one, Shukan Post offers another example of a Ukrainian woman named Anastasia, who last June fled from her male Japanese guarantor after just one week. Even over that brief duration, he claimed his outlays for acts of hospitality had set him back nearly 1 million yen.© Japan Today