For more than two decades, the Goi Peace Foundation from Japan has organised an essay competition for young people. The theme for 2022 was “My Values”. We received 19,986 essays from 152 countries.

The winners of the two first and two second prizes receive a cash prize and their winner’s certificate directly from the Japanese Minister of Education. Sofia, the 20-year-old Russian winner of the first prize, and Arina, the 13-year-old Ukrainian winner of the second prize, describe in their essays what the war has done to their value system. We would like to publish their essays here.

You can read all the winning essays on our website:

Youth Category – 1st Prize: Sofia (Age 20, Russia)


It has always been so clear and obvious for me. An axiom that does not require any proof. Fire is hot, ice is cold, every life matters. Something you do not need to explain to others.

However, it changed about three months ago. As the country I live in started the WAR.

The WAR. It comes out of nowhere and hits you on the head. Pain for people who are dying and losing their families and home, despair over not being able to stop it, fear of how it ends all at once permeate you, making you want to hide, to forget, to imagine it is fiction. But it is real. And it turns the world you live in upside down.

The values you have always believed in, the values you have cared about, the values that have been the cornerstone of your life principles seem to have all been turned into ashes by that cruel destructive fire called WAR.


Since childhood I was taught the importance of living in peace. Every person remembers the great price that was paid during the Second World War. Despite all the cruelty and violence, dedication and courage of our ancestors gave us a chance for a peaceful future.

However, the tragedy that is happening right now gives Victory Day a new meaning. It seems impossible to me to celebrate it knowing that at the exact same time people of the neighboring country fight and die for clear blue sky above their heads. The great day in honor of the memory of the fallen heroes is filled with hypocrisy and falsehood as the person who ordered to bomb a city lays flowers to its stele, as the festive fireworks cannot coexist with rumblings of the batteries in my mind.

Freedom of speech.

You may ask what can be even worse than that? I can tell you. It is inability to openly speak about what is going on. The illusion of free speech can be simply revealed as you try to share your opinion. One ‘’wrong’’ word – war – can become a spark that will lead to an explosion. We are not allowed to call it that way. We are not allowed to say “no” to it. We are not allowed to want peace.

I got used to live in the world where people can share their opinions with each other without being punished for that. I remember listening to different points of view in the media. It is over now. All the people, who do not agree with the government have been called “foreign agents”. It is tantamount to strangulation. I am literally feeling a rope tightening harder on my neck, robbing me of the opportunity to breathe.

Human life.

Why are people looking for excuses for killing innocent people? Why do they believe somebody has a right to destroy others’ lives? Genocide is tragic and gruesome and must not be justified.

Nevertheless, I still have to prove it to others.

‘’You really do not understand? People are dying!’’ I am screaming at the top of my lungs, tears threatening to make their way down my face.
“That is their own fault.’’
“Have not you watched TV?’’
“It is politics, it is never that simple.”

Every word hits me worse than a bullet, leaving more gaping holes in my damaged heart. Confidence and cold indifference in their eyes make my soul and my mind cry in horror. Has the world gone mad? Do I miss something?

No. I do not. I am sure of that. And as the world I was used to begins to collapse the faith I have helps me to hold on, helps me to put the pieces together.

Somebody may tell I sound naive, but I believe that good triumphs over evil. I know I am not alone. I trust together we can change the situation. Peace, freedom to speak, people’s lives. This is something I stand up for. These are my values.

And I am right because it is just so simple –


Children’s Category – 2nd Prize: Padalko Arina Aleksandrovna (Age 13, Ukraine)

My Values are My Life

February 24, 2022. Kharkiv, Ukraine. I wake up to explosions at about 4 a.m. I go to my parents’ room and ask, “Did you hear that? What’s going on?” And in response, I hear, “Yes, the war has started.”

The parents of my classmates started writing that their child wasn’t going to school, they weren’t going to work, and were leaving town altogether. It was in the moment that I wondered a lot. Was it that bad? It was horrible… When you have to urgently evacuate your city. When you can’t celebrate in two days the birthday of the dearest person in your life that you’ve been preparing for all last year. When all your family and friends call and ask, “Are you alive?”

I never thought that in the 21st century, I would go to the basement not to look at my grandmother’s cucumbers and tomatoes, but to hide in a basement.

While arriving at the safe house, I wanted to abstract myself from it. Close my eyes and ears. Imagine it was just a dream. At the moment, a world-famous quote came to me. “Appreciate what you have.” Before that, everything seemed ordinary, somewhere boring, not lively, an everyday routine. What are my values after that?

My values are life. I began to cherish it more, to treasure it. You realize that this day could be your last. You don’t know where the next missile or bomb or plane will land. Life is moments, good and bright or bad and not safe. Even when you’re in the basement, you’re with your parents. They support, help you believe in the best, hope, and just wait.

If you think about it and remember what it was like. Going to school in the morning, coming

back and doing homework, going to the gym with your mom, going for a walk with your friend’s dog. Going to laugh, be happy, or cry over a bad grade. These are all moments in life that are especially precious. We don’t remember them for long, but when we do, it makes us feel alive.

To appreciate, to love, to rejoice. Life is a gift. If you understand that, your path, your life, flows in the best way possible.

You can’t foresee today or tomorrow or what will happen in a week. But you can build that future. My values create my future.