I live with my Russian wife in Yokohama. Every year, on Feb. 23, we used to celebrate Defender of the Fatherland Day by opening a bottle of wine.

It may seem strange for a Japanese person like myself to be marking a Soviet-era Red Army commemoration but my wife's family once said to me: "Yu, you have great respect for your homeland. For you, the ‘fatherland’ is your family. So let's celebrate together.” I thought this was a good way of interpreting the festivity.

But for the past two years, my family has not celebrated Feb. 23, which falls the day before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. For two years, Moscow's troops have overrun their neighbor, killing over 10,000 civilians, according to the United Nations — though the number of dead soldiers is much higher.