Ukrainians in NZ worried, anxious

SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 17:20 04/03/2014

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A Ukrainian man came to New Zealand to find peace, but is ready to return to a war zone if it means he can help his country.

Auckland-based IT specialist Yevgen Bidnyy gained residency a year ago.

His hometown is Kiev, Ukraine’s capital and the site of violent clashes over the past weeks.

Bidnyy is concerned for his parents and other family members who remain in Kiev as the unrest spreads.

Since Russian troops seized control in Crimea at the weekend, Ukraine has appeared to be on the brink of war.

"My surviving grandmother is about 100 kilometres from Kiev and she is insisting all my family moves to her house because she still remembers World War II, and everyone fears that World War III is starting," Bidnyy said.

His daughter and ex-wife lived in Russia, and he planned to call Immigration New Zealand to discuss visa options for them, he said.

Some of his friends had already been called into the Ukraine army for training exercises, and Bidnyy too is considering going back if the crisis deepens.

"New Zealand has given us a safe harbour to get away from most of the world’s problems, and that is what we have been looking for," he said.

"Unfortunately, I am torn between the will to have a peaceful life and raise my family here, and at the same time feeling an obligation to protect my parents that are in Kiev and the land I grew up on."

Ukrainians had no aggression towards Russians, and his first language was Russian, he said.

"To us, they’re friends, they’re brothers. But at the same time, if they come and invade, we won’t have any other choice but to defend ourselves.

"I do not want to fight – any war is an absolute nightmare. But I do want to do whatever possible to protect my parents and friends. It is becoming increasingly harder to stay away."

Kate Turska used to call her mother in Ukraine once a fortnight. She now calls her twice a day.

The business development manager moved to Auckland in 2006 and said it had been difficult being on the other side of the world when there was so much uncertainty.

"It’s disconcerting and scary and all sorts of mixed emotions ... being that far away and not knowing what’s going to happen," she said.

She has family in the pro-Russian eastern regions and the anti-Russian western regions, and is worried not only about the prospect of war, but also about clashes within Ukraine.

"Even if the conflict with Russia is resolved and there’s no bloodshed, the internal conflict still must be dealt with," Turska said.

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She was also concerned about the economic fallout from the crisis and what it would do to Ukraine.

"At this stage nobody’s to say when it’s going to happen or how it’s going to happen. It’s the game of wait and see."


- National

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