I had a weird encounter one day in 1973. Midori-chan was four years old at the time.
I remember it so well. December sixth, it snowed heavily that day. Midori spent most of the day playing outside or watching the flakes from the window.
�Daddy, look!� she kept saying. I couldn�t help but smile.
�Yes, honey,� I said. �That�s snow.� Michiko watched on with a smile as well. At six in the evening, something changed in Midori�s tone.
�Daddy, look!� she said. I walked over to the window.
�What is it, sweetie?� I asked as I looked out with her. I noticed a figure staggering towards the house. I almost jumped back, startled.
�Honey!� I yelled. �Get here, we have somebody coming toward the house!� My wife raced over to my side and looked out the window.
�Oh my lord!� she gasped. Michiko and I rushed to the door. I put on my coat and raced outside. The figure in question turned out to be an injured man, coming closer and closer. He looked like he had been shot several times.
�Hey!� I yelled. �Are you okay?� The mad didn�t respond; he just kept walking.
�Are you lost?� I asked. He still didn�t respond. I didn�t even think he heard me. I walked over to the man. I hadn�t even gotten within inches of him when he collapsed at my feet. I managed to catch him just in time.
�Whoa! Don�t fall over on me!� He didn�t respond. I shook him.
�Hey,� I said. �Are you dead? Hey! Hey!� I checked for a pulse.
�Is he dead?� Michiko asked. I looked up and shook my head.
�No,� I said. �But he�s really hurt! Help me get him inside!�
�Right!� my wife replied. She pulled Midori inside with her, got her coat, and hurried outside to me. She came on the other side of the man.
�Got him?� I asked.
�Yeah,� Michiko said.
�Okay, when I say three, lift,� I said. �One, two, three!� It took some work, but we managed to lift the man to his feet and drag him into the house. Midori watched us from the window.
�What�s wrong, daddy?� she asked.
�It�s okay, sweetheart,� I said. �Just go back to bed.� The little girl went back into the house.
�Are we almost there?� Michiko asked me. �My shoulders are about to give!�
�Almost there,� I replied. I reached out to the door and helped Michiko pull the man inside.
�Just set him down on the couch,� I said. I happened to look out of the corner of my eye and saw that my wife had paused in shock.
�What�s wrong, dear?�
�Look,� she gasped.
�An army uniform?� I asked. I looked closer. �A Russian uniform!� I turned to Michiko.
�Michiko, He�s from the Russian army!� My wife gave me a puzzled look.
�The Russian army?� she asked. �What�s he doing in Japan?� I shrugged.
�No idea,� I said. �We�ll have to ask him when he wakes up. Just help me treat his wounds.�
�Right.� My wife rushed down the hall to the bathroom. I turned back to the injured soldier. Where did you come from and why are you here?
I looked up when I heard footsteps behind me. Michiko stood in the hallway with bandages and a first aid kit in her hand.
�This all I could find,� she said.
�That�s good enough.� My wife hurried next to me as I unbuttoned the soldier�s jacket. We took turns bandaging up the man.
�His wounds look pretty bad,� Michiko said. �You think we should take him to a hospital instead?�
�Do you think we can?� I asked.
�What do you mean?�
�The storm�s gotten worse,� I said. �There is no way to drive him to the hospital safely. We would get lost and he would probably die by the time we got there. I think we should wait until the storm dies down some.�
�And we�ll treat him to the best that we can for the time being?� she asked.
�Exactly,� I replied. I bandaged him up the best that I could. When Michiko went to check on Midori-chan, I looked around quickly. When I was sure that she was out of the room, I placed my hand over the worst wound on his abdomen and chest and closed my eyes. His wounds slowly closed, healing. When I finished, I sat back and exhaled. That did it.
Michiko and I took turns monitoring him through the night. We sat over the couch, watching him sleep.
�Think he�ll tell us what he was doing here?� my wife asked.
�I have no idea,� I replied.
�But aren�t you curious?� I shrugged.
�Maybe,� I said. She pouted.
�Maybe?� my wife asked. �Come on!�
�Don�t you want to know about him?� Michiko pushed. �I bet he�s a spy. Or maybe he�s a fugitive from a prison in Russia. Or he could be a POW from World War II.� I chuckled at my wife�s imagination.
�What?� she asked. I turned to her with a smile on my face. I ran my finger down her cheek.
�You are too precious,� I said. Michiko smiled back.
�But, don�t you want to know?�
�He�ll tell us if he wants to,� I said calmly. My wife gave me a little pout.
�Aww, you�re no fun,� she whined.
�I�m just saying.�
We stayed quiet for a long moment. I choked back a laugh. �A spy, huh?� I murmured. Michiko shrugged.
�Mommy!� we heard Midori-chan call from her room. I looked at my wife.
�You�re needed,� I whispered.
Michiko rose to her feet and turned to walk down the hall.
�Tell me what he says when he
wakes up,� she told me. I smiled and shook my head.
�Yes, yes,� I said. �Just go to Midori-chan.� I sat back, smiling. Oh my dear Michiko, I thought. I turned back to our guest. A spy, huh? I couldn�t help but chuckle at such a notion. Nah, there�s probably a simple explanation for this man.
Suddenly, a low groan drew my attention back down to our guest. His body�s twitched a little bit. He�s waking up, I thought. I watched intently and waited. He drew open his eyes and saw me. I gave him a wave.
�Hi there,� I said softly. �Can you understand Japanese?� The man squinted at me with an understandable look of confusion. Hm, I guess it�s safe to assume that he doesn�t understand what I�m saying. Maybe I should try another language.
�Can you speak English?� I asked in English this time. The man still looked rather lost. I was beginning to think that the answer was no.
�Can you speak English?� I asked again much slower. The man stared at me at first. But then, he slowly nodded. I began to feel a little relief. Good, we�re getting somewhere. The soldier tried to lift his head and look around, but I gently pushed him back down.
�Don�t get up,� I told him. �You�re still recovering from your wounds.� The soldier laid back down.
�Where am I?� he asked in English. His accent was so thick that I almost couldn�t understand him.
�Where is this place?� he asked. I blinked before I got what he was asking me.
�Oh, this is my house,� I answered. The soldier looked at me.
�Who are you?� he asked. I gave him a kind smile.
�My name is Kato Iwao.�
�I-wa-o�� he said slowly. I nodded.
�Yes. What is your name?�
�Yuri, Yuri Bure,� he whispered.
�Okay,� I said. �Where did you come from, Yuri?� He shook his head.
�What happened to you?� I asked. He shook his head again. I closed my mouth before I could ask another question. Okay, maybe it�s too early to ask him these questions. I�ll just ask him something simple and then shut up for the night.
�Just let me ask you this before I a let you rest,� I said. �Are you hurting anywhere?� The soldier shook his head. I began to feel relieved now.
�That�s good,� I said. I rose up to my feet and leaned in close to his ear. �I�m going to bed now. I�ll back to check on you in the morning, okay?� Yuri tried to speak, but I shushed him.
�That�s okay,� I whispered. �Good night.� I shut off the light and headed down the hall for the night. At three in the morning, I got out of bed and walked down to the living room.
�Psst, are you asleep, Yuri?� I asked. I reached out to turn on the lights.
�What makes the soul of a man?� I heard someone ask. I paused and let my eyes search the darkness.
�Hello? Yuri?� I noticed a pair of amber eyes looking right at me in the dark.
�What makes the soul of a man?� he asked again. I slowly walked towards him.
�I don�t know,� I said. �Why?�
�I believe I�m going to Hell,� Yuri said.
I blinked at those eyes. �Why?�
�I killed somebody,� he mumbled.
�It�s understandable. You�re a soldier in the war,� I reasoned.
�But, I still killed somebody,� he insisted.
Yuri shook his head. �I don�t even know his name. I took him away from his wife and his family.�
�That is how war is sometimes. I don�t agree with it either. WWII ruined the father of a couple of girls I used to know,� I said.
�Did he die?� Yuri asked.
�No. Are you familiar with PTSD?�
�Post-traumatic stress disorder?�
�Yeah,� I said. �That�s what their father had we he became a POW.�
�That�s even worse,� Yuri said.
I nodded. �He now has to live with the ghosts of his dead comrades in his head forever.� I paused. �Where exactly did you come from, anyway?�
�I came from a base in Tokyo,� he answered.
�How did you get all the way out here to Kobe?�
�I hitchhiked my way across the country. It wasn�t really a well thought out plan, though. I managed to get here with what little money that I had. I sold almost everything I owned and here I am,� he said.
�I can see that,� I replied.
�You�re a priest, aren�t you?� he asked.
�Why yes I am. How did you know?�
Yuri shrugged. �You just had an energy around you.�
�I see. What happened to you?�
�What do you mean?� Yuri asked.
�Why were you shot like that when we found you?� I asked him.
Yuri stayed quiet for a long moment. He lowered his head in shame. �I want to die.�
My jaw dropped. �What did you say?!�
�I can�t live with myself anymore.� His hands trembled in his lap as he cuddled them up into fists. �I�m a Roman Catholic, so suicide is a sin in my religion. It is a wrath against yourself in the eyes of God,� he explained in a low voice.
I gave him an odd look. �I�ve never heard of that one before.�
�I feel sick,� he said. �I feel sick with myself. I was drafted into the Russian army and forced to kill many for pointless wars.� He shook his head. �I just wanted to die. As I was hitchhiking across Kobe, I met with two thugs. They tried to rob me. I saw in that moment my chance. So�� Yuri explained.
I shook my head at him. �No. You didn�t.�
Yuri nodded. �Yeah. I asked them to kill me. They resisted at first. But, I managed to persuade them to try. And��
�Yuri!� I gasped.
�I know it was stupid. I just wasn�t thinking straight. I just wanted to die at that moment,� he said.
�And what about now?�
�I don�t know. I just don�t know.�
I reached out to touch him at first, but then I paused. My hand lowered down to his and stroked it like I was comforting my Midori-chan.
Suddenly, the lights flipped on. Yuri and I quickly looked up. Michiko and Midori stood in the hallway doorway looking at us. My daughter was still half-asleep. My wife gave us a strange look.
�Iwao-kun, what are you doing up so early?� Michiko asked. She looked and saw Yuri looking at her.
�Oh,� she said. �You�re awake. How are your injuries?�
�Good,� Yuri said calmly. I smiled proudly.
�Yuri, this is my lovely wife, Michiko,� I said to him in English. �She helped me carry you into our house and bandage you up.� Then, I switched to Japanese for my wife.
�Michiko, this is our soldier friend, Yuri Bure,� I said. My wife gave the old soldier a polite smile.
�Nice to meet you,� she said in her best English. Yuri slowly smiled.
�Yeah,� he said with a little nod. He took one look at Midori-chan. My little angel blinked at him silently. �That�s a cute little malchik that you have,� Yuri said. My wife and I looked at him confused.
�Huh?� I asked.
�My apologizes,� he said, �I was saying that you have a handsome little man there.� He motioned over at Midori-chan. My wife tried to keep calm enough to talk.
�She�s a little girl,� she corrected him.
�Oh�� he mumbled, embarrassed. Looking back, I can see how anyone could make that mistake. Our Midori-chan did look like a little boy then. Her hair was cut short. We tried to make her look more feminine with Western play dresses and girl-style kimonos and yukatas. Most of the time, it worked. But other times, she looked like a little boy in a dress. However, that wasn�t on my mind at that particular moment. I clapped my hands together.
�Okay!� I said. �I don�t think weren�t going back to bed. Anyone hungry?�
By seven in the morning, the snow storm had died down and the sun was out. Yuri put on his coat and prepared to head out the door.
�You�re leaving us?� Michiko asked.
�Uh-huh,� the Russian soldier said as he put his boots on.
�But, you�re still injured,� my wife said. �Let us at least take you to the hospital!�
�I�ll be fine,� Yuri insisted.
�But where will you go?� she asked. �Are you staying anywhere at the moment?�
�But, what will you do? Where are you going to go?�
�I�ll manage.� Yuri started to open the door when I pushed it closed again. The soldier looked over at me. I shook my head.
�At least let us take you to the hospital,� I said. �You still need someone to look at your wounds.� Yuri blinked.
�But�� he started to stay. I held up my hand to him.
�I won�t hear it,� I said. �We�re taking you to the hospital right now. After that, you can do whatever you like.� Yuri looked at me and then at Michiko. Her pleading eyes told him the same thing. Then, the soldier looked at me and dropped his shoulders.
�Fine,� he mumbled. �I�ll go.� I gave him a little smile.
�Wise choice,� I said. Michiko, Midori-chan, and I drove our new friend to the hospital. I talked to the staff about setting him up in a settler for the time being until he got better. It took some work, but we managed to work something out in the end.
I will never forget that man if I tried. The word �malchik� has stayed in my mind ever since. I ended up nicknaming Kimoto Anna that, years later.