Paper cranes for peace made by Cuba students offered at Hiroshima children’s memorial

(Reposted from: The Mainichi. August 17, 2023)

Original article (in Japanese) by Naomi Yamamoto, The Mainichi – Hiroshima Bureau

HIROSHIMA — Paper cranes made by elementary school students in Cuba were presented recently at the Children’s Peace Monument in Peace Memorial Park here with the help of local students.

The cranes, folded from origami paper in the blue and white of Cuba’s flag plus the red of Japan’s, were the work of about 30 elementary school students in the Caribbean island’s Matanzas Province. They were intended for delivery to the A-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the coronavirus crisis made it difficult to get the cranes to Japan.

They were then entrusted to Airi Kawaguchi, a 21-year-old student at Sophia University, who happened to meet the children in February this year during her vacation through Latin America. Next in the chain of coincidence, a Hiroshima man who had heard about Kawaguchi through an acquaintance suggested that she leave the cranes with the city’s Honkawa Elementary School, saying, “This is the closest elementary school to the (A-bomb) hypocenter, and the desire to pray for peace has been passed down through the generations there.”

The cranes were hung on a wooden plank inscribed with the message in Japanese, “May the cries of their souls remind us why we fight for peace.”

Honkawa Elementary students handed messages of gratitude and peace for the Cuban children to Cuban Embassy Second Secretary Dairon Ojeda, saying that they share the same desire to pray for peace. Ojeda and the schoolchildren passed on the cranes to the Children’s Peace Memorial on Aug. 5. The cranes were hung on a wooden plank inscribed with the message in Japanese, “May the cries of their souls remind us why we fight for peace.”

Kawaguchi said of the children who folded paper cranes, “I was impressed by how freely they talked about war and peace.

It has been 61 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were on the brink of nuclear war. Che Guevara, a leading figure in the communist Cuban Revolution, visited Hiroshima in 1959 and enthusiastically conveyed the tragedy of the atomic bombing upon his return home. Anti-nuclear and peace education is still passionately pursued in Cuba.

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