Siberia Children (by Professor Nagao Hyodo)

I was deeply touched after reading the book written by Professor Hyodo Nagao. He has given us this great chance to know a story (The Siberia Children) that was lost in history.

The story started just after World War 1. In Siberia there were more than 100,000 Polish people who could not return to Poland. Their life was very hard.

They were very cold and sick, with little food. It was especially terrible for the children whose parents had died. The Polish adults in Siberia thought, "It is okay if we die here without ever going back to Poland. But we must send these children back to Poland". They organized a relief group that worked to find support for the suffering children. They tried to ask Europe and America for support so that the children could be sent back to Poland. But no one helped them.

Finally they asked Japan. A leader arrived in Japan and visited the Japanese government to ask them to help the Polish children in Siberia. The Japanese government listened to them very carefully and decided to accept their request. Only for seventeen days! Two weeks later the Japanese sent a ship to Siberia. A total of 765 Polish children came to Japan. They found the Japanese at that time were so very kind and warmhearted.

Many people - doctors, students, barbers and others - worked for the children's benefit as volunteers. People sent money and many comforting things to the children. The children were able to get better and finally became ready to return to Poland. When they left Japan on a Japanese ship, the children said in Japanese, "ARIGATO (thank you), SAYONARA (good-bye)" and sung KIMIGAYO (the Japanese national anthem) again and again.

The Japanese had made woolen clothes for the children (because the Japanese were afraid Poland would be cold), and put bananas and sweets and so on into the children's pockets. Though the children could go back to Poland at last, it was hard for the Japanese and children to say good-bye to each other.

After that, another war started, so people forgot this wonderful heartwarming story. The story was lost in history for a long time. But in 1993, Mr. Hyodo arrived in Poland as the Japanese ambassador. He heard the story in Warsaw and he thought that maybe some the Siberia children were still alive, though old. So he tried to find them. And he did. He invited seven of the Siberian children to the embassy in Warsaw. Of course they were more than 80 years old. One of them came with a grandchild. One of them came in a wheelchair. One old lady, when she came into the embassy, said, "I really wanted to come here even if it meant I had to crawl. I've been wanting to visit Japan again and wanting to say 'Thank you' to the Japanese. But I haven't been able to do it, so had given up. Then I got the invitation card from the Japanese embassy. My friend said to me that the embassy is a part of its country, Japan. That meant I would be able to visit Japan and to say thank you to the Japanese. Today, my dream has come true. I have nothing more to wish for." After saying that, she cried. Ambassador Hyodo and the other people there all cried too. The Siberia Children, after coming back to Poland, have never forgotten the great warmheartedness of the Japanese. They showed Mr.Hyodo some Japanese presents (OMAMORI, SENSU, etc.) that they had kept for more than seventy years.

This photo is of some of the Siberia Children when they had just come back from Japan. One of the Siberian Children had kept it for 75 years and gave it to Ambassador Hyodo when she met him.

Mr. Hyodo thought the story was over.

But in 1995 a terrible earthquake occurred in Kobe, Japan. Many Kobe children lost their parents in that earthquake. The Polish thought, "This is the time for us to return a favor to Japan." So Poland invited children from Kobe to visit Poland for a summer holiday. On the Kobe children's last day in Poland, the Siberian children were also invited to the embassy to meet with the Kobe children. The Siberian children presented red roses to the Kobe children. The Siberian childen said, `At last we could return a favor to the Japanese.`

by: Mieko Kageyama ( POLJA/ POLAND SIMIN KORYU TOMO NO KAI ) 2003/12/23

(P.S.)
POLJA chairman, Professor Jablonski, told me the following. (His father was one of the Siberian children, too.)

"Many Polish children were suffering in Siberia. All of them wanted to go back to Poland. The children who went to Japan were very lucky.

My father and his brother were too old to be selected (my father was around 14 years old). They had to get back all by themselves. It took two years for them to get back to Poland. They walked, went by horse, by ship, by whatever they could use. And they were forced three times to be members of the Red Army and three times to be members of the Whites, working on farms and in factories."

An amazing story.

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