They began with funny videos and talked over Mario Kart racing games on their YouTube channel. Now, two Ukrainian brothers who live in Japan have added a more serious subject to their videos. They are telling young Japanese about the news from their country and bringing the realities of war closer to Japan.
Just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Sava Tkachov, 26, and his younger brother Yan, 20, celebrated the second anniversary of opening their YouTube broadcast. Now, over 2 million people follow their Sawayan Channel and the Sawayan Games channel that Sava hosts.
The first word of war came from their father. He is a business person and had returned to Kyiv two months ago. After Russian troops arrived, he stayed to help defend his country. The brothers’ YouTube content, which used to be full of tricks, jokes and action videos, has become more serious.
Father in Ukraine
They worried about their 53-year-old father and friends in Ukraine. In early March, the brothers said that they planned to volunteer as defenders too. It started a wave of reactions, some supporting and others criticizing them.
The father said they should not come. The Tkachovs have no military training and soon changed their minds. Sava said he received long and serious messages from some of his teenage fans showing they wanted to follow the brothers to Ukraine.
"By sending out messages through our channel, I made kids want to go to war and I cannot say if it was good or bad," Sava said at a news conference Thursday. "But at least it was meaningful that they became interested in the issue."
Sava, who uses the social media name "No War," used his gaming channel to raise money. He collected some 3.6 million yen, or $29,500, in three hours, and donated all of it to the Ukrainian Embassy.
Yan and Sava said they also started receiving messages from parents saying their children started thinking about peace. Others thanked them for raising important social issues.
"I believe the merit of YouTube is I can convey the real information from the ground that my father is sharing with us about the situation that is very up to date.” He puts it on the internet almost immediately, Sava said.
Japan was quick to join other industrialized nations in placing restrictions on trade with Russia and providing support for Ukraine.
Tokyo has also sent some military equipment, but not weapons, and medical supplies to Ukraine. It is an exception to Japan's ban on sending military equipment to countries in conflict.
Japan’s government is worried about the effect of Moscow's war on East Asia. Tokyo has faced recent threats from North Korea and China. Due to sanctions, Russia stopped peace treaty talks with Japan over the disputed Kuril Islands. Moscow has held the island chain north of Japan since 1945.
Sava Tkachov arrived with his family in Japan when he was 4 and studied at a top Japanese university. He thanked his adopted country for its support, but said Tokyo should keep its peaceful role in world affairs.
"Japan is the world's top-class peaceful nation ... and what the country is doing right now is very appropriate," he said. "As to the question of whether Japan should send weapons, I do not think it's the kind of role Japan should be playing."
Instead, he said, Japan can better help by continuing to appeal for peace and take a leadership role within Asia.
He also said Japan can provide home to many Ukrainian refugees.
Some may find the language difficult or the food unusual, "but I'm sure they can overcome the difficulties with the empathy of the Japanese people and the spirits of the Ukrainians."
I’m Jill Robbins.
Mari Yamaguchi reported on this story for the Associated Press. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English.
Words in This Story
channel – n. a regular location on the internet for sending or receiving broadcasts
convey – v. to make known; communicate in words, actions, appearance, and the like
adopt – v. to accept or start using something new
sanctions – n. provisions of a law enacting a penalty for disobedience or a reward for obedience
appropriate – adj. suitable or acceptable for a particular situation.
empathy – n. the ability to imagine what it must be like to be in someone's situation
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