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A Ukrainian woman who fled the embattled city of Kharkiv says she is still processing leaving her home, but she is looking forward to starting a new life in New Zealand.
Immigration New Zealand apologised after accidentally telling her to travel from Kharkiv to Kyiv to verify documents soon after Russia invaded on February 24.
Now she has made it to safety in Italy and has plans to fly to New Zealand in early April.
Through Zoom Mrs Heraskina said the day the invasion happened she woke at 5am to the sound of explosions.
She had money and documents ready to go, which she threw into a bag with her laptop, phone and charger.
She also took five pairs of white socks, two bottles of perfume and a translated copy of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries.
She put the odd selection down to shock and a desire for mundane comforts.
Travelling to her niece’s home by metro she saw people commuting to work.
The situation was like something out of a movie, she said.
When she arrived, they put tape on the windows and stayed put until they decided to travel to the border by car.
It took them four days to get to Lviv.
They decided to cross at the Slovakian border because the Polish crossings were so busy.
Anna, her niece and her niece’s 3-year-old child walked across the border after taking one last photo with her niece’s husband, who had to go back to fight.
There was no time to process emotions because they had to keep moving but when they looked back they saw him waving with tears in his eyes.
After crossing the border, they were given a hot meal and a place to rest by volunteers, then travelled by train to friends in Italy.
It was strange to think her idea of home no longer existed, but she was looking forward to coming to New Zealand and reuniting with her husband.
She hoped that her niece’s child would not remember the war, but only the good bits of their journey such as the large amount of kindness they were shown and her friend’s big white dog licking his face when they arrived in Rome.
Mr Foster said he breathed a sigh of relief when he heard his wife had made it to safety and was living for the moment of seeing her coming through the airport.
His mother, Dianne Souness, of Macandrew Bay, said she was looking forward to welcoming the couple to Dunedin when they came to visit.