Plea for NZ to help Ukrainians

Anna Gorobets holds a photo of her sister’s family who are trapped in Ukraine. PHOTO: LUCY WORMALD
Anna Gorobets holds a photo of her sister’s family who are trapped in Ukraine. PHOTO: LUCY WORMALD
When New Zealand resident Anna Gorobets called her mother, who lives in Ukraine, for their daily catch-up last Thursday, the line was silent.

Eventually finding words, her mother confirmed Russia was invading.

Now, Ms Gorobets is urging the New Zealand Government to grant Ukrainians with family here passage to safety and "a better life".

Her mother, sister, brother in-law and nephew are bunkered down in an apartment in Odessa, a port city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine.

She said her family were scared, and despite living through the Russo-Ukrainian war that began in 2014, this was "next level".

Her family were in line to cross into Moldova when they saw men being taken out of cars due to martial law preventing males aged 18 to 60 from crossing.

"The family do not want to separate" so fleeing became "not an option".

Ms Gorobets said military officials believed Russia’s likely plan was to surround Odessa with land and naval forces in order to cut off Ukraine's access to the Black Sea, the country's vital link to the global economy.

Russian naval ships have gathered on the border of Ukraine’s waters in the Black Sea and the city of Kherson — only 190km east of Odessa — fell to Russian forces earlier this week.

Ms Gorobets, who was raised in Odessa, said she feared Ukraine was changed forever and her 2-year-old nephew would never know what a wonderful country it was.

"I cannot watch the news because every time I do, I cry. And I just can't cry anymore ... it is heartbreaking and scary.

"I'm feeling really hopeless, it’s hard to enjoy my safety when my family is not safe."

Ms Gorobets contacted National MP for Southland Joseph Mooney asking if anything could be done to get her family to New Zealand.

"They don't have anyone except me ... I need to try to do absolutely everything I possibly can do."

Mr Mooney informed Ms Gorobets National was pushing for the creation of a humanitarian visa for immediate family members of Ukrainians who had settled in New Zealand.

"It is the New Zealand way to help those in need and the Minister [of Immigration] needs to step up and do the right thing by the affected family members of New Zealanders," Mr Mooney said.

Ms Gorobets said she wanted to believe New Zealand would be understanding in granting Ukrainians safety.

"If it is going to be possible anywhere, I think it will be here."

By Lucy Wormald

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