For Tina Karol, two of Ukraine’s most powerful tools for peace are information and music.
In early May, the Ukrainian singer landed in Japan for a surprise visit to highlight the plight of the Ukrainian people, appeal for support for humanitarian efforts and call for an end to the ongoing conflicts in her home country. The acclaimed singer is a much-loved household name in her home country who has received awards from two presidents. Her glittering career includes recognition in the Eurovision song contest, stints as a coach on hit TV show The Voice, and as a singer for the Ukrainian armed forces.
Since Russian troops started entering Ukraine in February, Karol has wasted no time leveraging her star power to support humanitarian and fundraising efforts around the globe, visiting Poland, Israel, Lithuania and Switzerland, and now, for the first time, Japan.
“There are many ways to show support… even if you just see Ukrainians on the street, say hello! Sometimes a hug can make big things happen.”Tina Karol, renowned Ukrainian singer, actress and TV presenter
While in Japan — between meetings with government and business leaders including Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Hiroshima’s governor Hidehiko Yuzaki — Karol also appeared as a special guest at the Ukraine Charity Stage of the pop culture, music and fashion event Rakuten GirlsAward 2022 Spring/Summer 2022, where she performed a powerful rendition of her hit song Ukraine is You.
A fight for identity
“What you see on the news can’t describe the pain of the people, how they are fighting to defend their homes,” Karol revealed after her performance. “Houses are being destroyed, families are being separated. The war is taking lives, even the lives of small children, just angels.”
She spoke of the shock of being ripped away from modern life to be placed in a new reality where people must fight for survival. “We go to sleep every day to the sound of sirens. We wake up to sirens, but we still drink our coffee. We don’t go anywhere, not to the bomb shelter. We fight until we get exhausted, then we wake up and fight again.”
Despite the dire circumstances, Karol has faith in the resilience of her compatriots.
“I know Ukrainians are brave. And they are very, very strong,” she affirmed. “This war is trying to take our identity. And our identity is very important to us.”
Giving voice to Ukraine
“My parents in Ukraine ask when I’m coming back. But at the same time, they tell me not to come back,” Karol said. “Today, I’m homeless. I can’t think in the long term. I just think day by day — I’m living out of my suitcase.”
Karol’s visit to Japan is one of several stops on a string of fundraising destinations, where she is using her powerful voice to garner support from citizens across the globe. Following Japan, she has returned to Europe for a series of charity performances to raise awareness and support for the ongoing crisis.
“I want to show how beautiful Ukraine is, how beautiful our music is,” she explained. “Music and information — these are my weapons. This is how I can fight.”
The surprise Japan trip came about thanks to an encounter in Ukraine several years ago with Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani.
“Mickey Mikitani: I met him in Ukraine when he was on a trip for Viber. He was there to meet our new president,” Karol recounted. “He invited me to be part of this event. We talked about how we could represent Ukraine, and I told him that I wanted to sing the songs of the Ukrainian people. We put this together very quickly.”
Karol’s days in Japan included meetings with prominent figures including Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the Ukrainian and U.S. ambassadors, and a journey to Japan’s peace hub Hiroshima to spread her message.
Never let this happen again
Following her powerful performance on the Ukraine Charity Stage, Karol expressed gratitude for the aid Japan has already provided to the people of Ukraine. She shared that through her travels, she hopes that more individuals in Japan and around the globe will be moved to provide support.
“There are many ways to show support,” she explained. “You can go to your government website and find the charity fund. But even if you just see Ukrainians on the street, say hello! Sometimes a hug can make big things happen.”
Above all, Karol has one message that she wants to communicate to the world: “Never let this happen again. Please stop the war.”