Horror of nuclear weapons should be shared with Europe—Hiroshima A-bomb survivors hope visit by European Council’s president leads to nuclear abolition

by Junji Akechi and Kana Kobayashi, Staff Writers

As leader of the European Union (EU), which has been shaken by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European Council President Charles Michel paid a visit to Hiroshima on May 13. Mr. Michel condemned Russia for its threat of nuclear weapons use and expressed his determination to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. A-bomb survivors in Hiroshima called for Mr. Michel’s leadership and concrete action toward the abolition of such weapons.

Keiko Ogura, 84, an A-bomb survivor from Hiroshima’s Naka Ward who shared her experience in the atomic bombing with Mr. Michel, said, “He listened to my account with rapt attention.” In addition to her own A-bombing experience at the age of eight, Ms. Ogura communicated to Mr. Michel the tragedy of so many children dying in the bombing. According to Ms. Ogura, the EU leader expressed gratitude to her and told Ms. Ogura that politicians like him must do their job and avoid war.

Ms. Ogura has recently received an increased number of requests from Europe to share her experience in the atomic bombing and to undergo media interviews, a situation she feels is the result of heightened interest in the nuclear issues following the situation in Ukraine. “Everyone in the world must make an effort to attain the goal of elimination of nuclear weapons,” said Ms. Ogura. She expressed her expectation that the EU leader, who spent time listening to her account, would exercise leadership toward abolition of such weapons in the future.

Meanwhile, reliance on nuclear deterrence is on the increase. Based on a sense of danger regarding Russia, northern European nations such as Finland and Sweden are now seeking membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is akin to a nuclear alliance of Western nations.

Kunihiko Sakuma, 77, chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo), shared his desperate expectations for the EU leader. “Amid some European nations beginning to move toward reliance on nuclear weapons, the EU leader’s visit to the A-bombed city of Hiroshima has great significance. I hope Mr. Michel can share with the rest of Europe the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, a concept he learned firsthand in Hiroshima,” said Mr. Sakuma.

Some hope that Mr. Michel’s visit will help propel Hiroshima to be selected as host city for the summit meeting of the G7 (the G7 summit is attended by the Group of Seven industrialized nations). Obtaining agreement from France, a nuclear-armed EU member nation, is thought to be a determining factor in any decision for the summit meeting to be held in Hiroshima. Toshiyuki Mimaki, 80, chair of the other Hiroshima Hidankyo, expressed his anticipation. “Holding the G7 summit in Hiroshima would be a powerful message for the promotion of nuclear weapons abolition. I would like Mr. Michel to put everything he has into realizing the summit be held in Hiroshima by keeping in mind the suffering of the A-bomb survivors he encountered in Hiroshima.”

Young people are placing their expectations on Mr. Michel’s comments regarding the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. Momoka Narasaki, 21, a resident of Hiroshima’s Aki Ward and a staff member at Peace Culture Village, an NPO based in Miyoshi City, who now serves as a guide at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in the city’s Naka Ward, declared, “The threat of nuclear weapons is not a thing of the past but affects us now. I want him to put into action what he said about abolition.”

(Originally published on May 14, 2022)