The impact the “Student voice: the case of Ukraine and Fukushima/Japan – living together with radiation and war” workshop had on me.By Simona Taira

On 10th March 2023, I participated in the “Student Voice: The Case of Ukraine and Fukushima/Japan – Living together with radiation and war” workshop. It was a fascinating workshop I enjoyed a lot. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear the life stories and lived realities of students from both Fukushima and Ukraine. 

I got to know a lot from students from Fukushima who spoke about the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and students from Ukraine who talked about the Chernobyl Disaster. They are students who were directly affected, and it was very knowledgeable to hear about what happened from their point of view.

There are many people outside Japan who are not aware that food produced in Fukushima is widely distributed in Japan. The OECD e2030 is a global community, so I think that it is very important that such information is shared with people who are unaware.

There were a lot of lessons I learned from the workshop, but one that really stood out and made me think long after the meeting was over is about the importance and role of media that the Asaka High School students talked about. Perhaps it had such a strong impact on me because I can personally relate to it.

My mom’s side is Russian so I myself, am half-Russian. My grandma lives in Moscow and she has been supporting Putin’s decisions and the cruel war in Ukraine. My mom and I were very surprised when we heard her opinion. It was a great shock to us because my grandma is a person who always wished for world peace, since she herself was born right after World War II ended, in 1946. She always used to tell anecdotes from her childhood and about the consequences the war had on her family. What made her change so much? It was the media. My grandma doesn’t like to use modern technology and doesn’t have a smartphone or computer at home. She uses the internet only at work for work-related research purposes. Hence she has no other access to information except the television and radio. When we visited her, we noticed that her radio or TV was always switched on. The Russian media obviously hid the horrifying truth of what is actually happening in Ukraine and fed the listeners with endless excuses. The propaganda and media manipulated my grandma and made her believe that the War was for the better. This way, the media was able to change my grandma from a peace-loving person into a war supporter. This once again proves that we are shaped by the environment we live in. 

We call her every weekend and try to persuade her that the war isn’t for the better and we share information with her about what is actually happening in Ukraine. I feel like our words were able to slightly change her way of thinking and I feel like she is starting to understand that this war is unnecessary and brutal.

During the Breakout Room discussion, we discussed ‘when was the last time we felt like our well-being was at risk’. I took some time to think about it and what came to my mind was exam stress. Even though compared to war and nuclear disasters, it may be a smaller issue, I feel like it is very important and that many students are affected by it. Very recently, one of my closest school friends called me while crying. She is a very smart student and gets good grades most of the time, and yet the pressure caused her to break down in tears. Students nowadays are pressured by the school system, teachers, parents, and the community as a whole,  to be the best at everything and excel in all subjects. Exam stress is something almost all my friends suffer from. Our goal in life is no longer to do what we truly enjoy, but instead to get into a prestigious university, get a well-paying job, and be what others want us to be.

After the workshop, I was very influenced by what I learned and shared the recording of the meeting with my mom. Together, we rewatched the presentation by the Asaka High School students, the stories told by Ukrainian students, and their creative work. We especially loved the song by the Ukrainian students and my mom even teared up while watching it.

I truly enjoyed the workshop because I got to listen and interact with many different people from different backgrounds. I learned a lot about how students are living together with Radiation and War in Fukushima and Ukraine. I got to share my opinion and hear others’ opinions as well. I can’t wait to take part in more such events!!