When 75 year old Fuminori Tsuchiko from Tokyo arrived in eastern Ukraine‘s city of Kharkiv last year, he knew he wanted to help people affected by Russia’s invasion. Touched by the hardships faced by residents who were forced to seek shelter in subway stations due to Russian shelling, Tsuchiko decided to stay and lend a helping hand.
For several months, he lived in a metro station, working as a volunteer to distribute food to those in need. During this time, he met a Ukrainian who shared his determination to help those disadvantaged by the conflict. Together, they opened a free cafe in Kharkiv’s Saltivka neighbourhood, named FuMi Caffe, with its funding primarily coming from donations made by Japanese individuals via social media. Tsuchiko said…
“From June to December, I stayed in the metro, underground, living and eating alongside many Ukrainian people.”
FuMi Caffe now serves around 500 people every day, providing a welcoming space for those in need.
Tsuchiko initially visited Ukraine as a tourist in February 2022. However, he was advised by the Japanese embassy to leave the country as Russia prepared to invade. Although he briefly relocated to Warsaw, Poland, he returned to Ukraine just two months later, compelled to make a positive impact on the lives of the people affected by the ongoing conflict.
One visitor to the cafe, Anna Tovstopyatova, spoke of her admiration for Tsuchiko’s selflessness and dedication. She said…
“It’s wonderful that there are such sincere people with open hearts and souls, who sacrifice their lives and time to help and give hope.”
Despite the city of Kharkiv holding off the initial invasion by Russian forces and the subsequent retreat of Russian troops towards the border, the city continues to face ongoing attacks. Yet, amidst the devastation and uncertainty, Tsuchiko’s unwavering compassion and generosity shine through, making a difference in the lives of those suffering from the consequences of the conflict.
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