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Ukraine Will Not Perish — Japanese Orchestra’s Moving Show of Solidarity

Like in the movie Sunflower, war is tearing families and loved ones apart. Except what is happening in Ukraine is not in a movie but real life.



Ukrainian troops ride on an APC with a Ukrainian flag, in a field with sunflowers in Kryva Luka, eastern Ukraine, on July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File)

From New York to Paris to Prague to Taipei, the Ukrainian flag has been raised in solidarity all over the world. Its colors represent the endless blue sky and the golden wheat fields of Ukraine that stretch far beyond the horizon.

Japan continues to send support to the country as the people take to the streets in protest against Russia. 

In the wake of the invasion, the Tokyo New City Orchestra decided to play the Ukrainian national anthem at its March 5 concert. 

“We thought about what we could do for Ukraine,” said Tadamasa Fukiura, an 80-year-old director of the orchestra.

People evacuating from the city of Irpin near Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, through an improvised road built under a destroyed bridge (March 6, 2022 (AP))

The Russian invasion began on February 24, and the citizens of Ukraine have been doing everything they can to resist. Men are sitting in the way of tanks and standing in front of military vehicles to block their advance. Women are making Molotov cocktails and the elderly and children are being trained to use guns. But they are all ordinary civilians.

Director Fukiura of the Tokyo New City Orchestra is also an expert on national flags and has a special affection for them. He was in charge of making flags for the countries that competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. 

Soprano singer Masako Shindo (photographed by Hirokazu Miyagawa)

“For me, the yellow of the Ukrainian flag represents sunflowers. It reminds me of the movie Sunflower starring Sophia Loren. The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine. But it’s also the national flower of Russia, which means that two countries with the same national flower are fighting each other.”

The film Sunflower was released in 1970 and tells the story of an Italian woman’s search for her husband, who went missing in action at the front lines of World War II in the former Soviet Union. In an iconic scene, sunflowers bloom profusely over the land that is said to be the grave of soldiers and civilians who fell victim to the ravages of war.

That field of sunflowers is said to have been filmed in the port city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, a former Soviet territory. Kherson was seized by the Russian military on March 2.

On March 5, the Tokyo New City Orchestra announced to the audience that it would be performing the Ukrainian national anthem. There was a buzz in the air as the song had not been part of the original program.   

Fusako Yanase, an honorary chairperson of the NPO Association for Aid and Relief, Japan, took the stage to explain the situation of the Ukrainians trying to flee the country and appealed for donations. “They are struggling to cross the border and food is in short supply.”

Then, the orchestra called for the audience to stand. As 550 people stood in solidarity with Ukraine, soprano Masako Shindo sang the Ukrainian national anthem accompanied by the Tokyo New City Orchestra.

Its solemn melody and the dignity of the Ukrainian language echoed through the concert hall. 


The Ukrainian national anthem, also known by its shortened title Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished, can be traced back to a song written and composed in the 1860s. 

Part of the lyrics read:

Never perished is Ukraine’s
Glory and freedom!
Still upon us, young brethren,
Fate shall smile!
Our enemies shall vanish
Like dew in the sun…

Soul and body shall we lay down
For our freedom

The lyrics are as though they were written in anticipation of Ukraine’s situation today.


When the last note was played, the audience burst into thunderous applause. To everyone’s surprise, the applause turned into a standing ovation.

According to reports, on the same day in Kherson, about 2000 citizens gathered in Liberty Square in front of the city hall — which had been taken over by Russian troops — and sang the national anthem waving flags of blue and yellow.

Like in the movie Sunflower, war is tearing families and loved ones apart. Except what is happening in Ukraine is not in a movie but real life. 

This summer, will the Ukrainian sunflowers bloom in the land downtrodden by Russian tanks?


(Read the essay in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Kinya Fujimoto


Read other reports and essays about the struggle for liberty and democracy in the face of dictators by this Vaughn Prize winning author at this link.

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