Russian couple 'touched' by offers of help

HOMELESS: Nikolai Zvyagin and his wife Irina have left their garage and have been saved from sleeping in the park by a friend.
HOMELESS: Nikolai Zvyagin and his wife Irina have left their garage and have been saved from sleeping in the park by a friend.

With all options exhausted, the Zvyagins yesterday packed their car full of bedding in the rain.

They intended to spend the night at a park in Shirley next to a toilet.

If only for some small comfort, they exchanged their small hatchback car for a friend's bigger car, so they could both fit.

Nikolai, 67, and Irina, 68, Zvyagin were on Friday forced from the garage where they shared a single camp stretcher for weeks while they waited for state housing.

They are two of 272 Cantabrians on Housing New Zealand's (HNZ) priority A waiting list - a number that has grown by 100 people since December.

Seventy-one HNZ applications still sit between the Zvyagins and a new home.

The Zvyagins had been living in Oxana Pyntya's garage, until HNZ threatened to terminate Pyntya's contract unless the Zvyagins were gone by Friday.

They intended on sleeping in their tiny car, or pitching a tent in a city park near a toilet, but luckily had one last night with a roof over their heads.

When The Press highlighted their plight yesterday, the couple were inundated with offers for accommodation and support. 

But wary the temporary solution would jeopardise their place on the state housing waiting list, they gracefully declined help until they could find a permanent home.

Instead, last night a friend, worried for their welfare in the rain and cold temperatures, took them in.

But the Zvyagins no longer want to be a burden on people.

"We don't want to overburden people with our problems. Our health issues will inevitably put pressure on other people," Nikolai Zvyagin said through a translator.

"However, if our problem is not resolved until it becomes too cold, we will have to use the kind suggestions of help." 

The couple are both New Zealand citizens. They moved to New Zealand to be closer to their daughter eight years ago, and both initially had jobs. 

Irina Zvyagin's health problems now prevent her from working, and Nikolai Zvyagin said no one will hire him because of his age. Their daughter is currently working overseas.

Nikolai Zvyagin said he was "very touched" by offers of help from Press readers.

"However, if we use any of these kind suggestions we will lose the opportunity to solve our problem soon. 

"Just two days ago HNZ suggested us to keep living in the garage in return for taking us off their emergency waiting list."

Nikolai Zvyagin was so desperate he wrote to HNZ asking to move into an empty state house next door, and offered to carry out the repair work himself.

However, Housing New Zealand regional manager southern Symon Leggett said the units had "significant structural damage" and were unsafe.

Leggett said the Zvyagins had "high priority" for housing, and had spoken to them about other options.

The Press