Earthquake leads to surprise reunion

02:26, Jun 15 2011
Jo Saville and Almas Kazimi
FANCY MEETING YOU HERE: Acting Senior Sergeant Jo Saville and Almas Kazimi, 17, catch up in Christchurch.

An unusual friendship that began and ended in war-stricken Afghanistan was rekindled by chance in an earthquake-ravaged Christchurch street.

Almas Kazimi, then 15, worked as a language interpreter for the New Zealand Army in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

While working at the Defence Force base, he met a Kiwi police officer, Senior Sergeant Jo Saville.

Saville, who was born and raised in Christchurch but is now based in New Plymouth, was deployed to Afghanistan last year where she worked as a training adviser for the nation's police force until February.

"She was a good friend to me.

"We would play basketball together and unload the food trucks, she was always so nice and happy and we talked all the time ... I didn't know many people on the [army] base," Kazimi said.


He fled his home nation in January to seek a better life in New Zealand.

Yesterday, he was on the way to help an elderly man shovel liquefaction from his damaged Dallington home.

Saville is leading a group of "reassurance patrols" doing community-based work in the hardest-hit Christchurch suburbs.

About 1pm, Saville was on Gloucester St as Kazimi went past. "I knew I recognised him waving in the car.

"I recognised him straight away and I was thinking to myself, `how do I know him ... have I arrested him once, is he a recruit?'

"He came running over and then I clicked," she said.

Kazimi described seeing Saville as "totally amazing".

"I never thought in my life that I would see her again ... it was just so unreal," he said.

Kazimi, who does not even know his own birthday, is seeking refugee status in New Zealand.

He is living with the sister of a former padre in the New Zealand Army who served in Afghanistan.

He said experiencing the earthquakes was like "going from one disaster zone to another".

"But the disaster here is different. It's natural and I still feel safe. In Afghanistan, the disaster is too dangerous, and it's not natural."

The Press