The last straw for Ukrainian Valeriya Horyayeva was when she not just heard, but felt a bomb land near her building.
“It was vibrating all my house, windows, and even my body, and it was in the night,” she said, “and I decided that I can’t stay here anymore. I need to leave.”
Horyayeva spoke at Aroha for Ukraine, an event organised by Nelson City councillor Matt Lawrey yesterday to a crowd of around 180 people.
She recalled phoning family and friends daily to check that they were still alive, and rationing supplies.
From social media she learnt where to hide, and what to eat – and to remember to eat in the first place, something that can slip from the minds of the stressed and scared.
The 29-year-old said she talked with her friends about sharing her story who urged her to do so, because the “Russian propaganda machine never stopped”.
Horyayeva made a plea for Kiwis to keep their family members close. When you’re at war, she said, you understood that your families needed to hear from you.
“Call your grannies, your father, your mother, your daughter. You don’t have war here. So please call your family and say that you love them. Really love [them]. You’re always near to them. They need to hear your support also.”
Blenheim woman Alina Tenetka still has a large extended family in her home country, some of whom are living without water, electricity and gas, and who drink from puddles when it rains.
Nelsonians came out in support of the war torn nation at Aroha for Ukraine on Saturday.
Both of her nephews got pneumonia from sheltering for three weeks in a bitterly cold basement in winter.
Her aunt, living in an occupied area, was told by Russian soldiers they would be given food as humanitarian help, but only in exchange for their passports.
They preferred to go hungry than give up their freedom.
Zofia Fastier shows her support for Ukraine at Aroha for Ukraine on Saturday.
Nelson mayor Rachel Reece gave a speech at the event, as did Nelson MP Rachel Boyack, and other members of the Ukrainian community.
Boyack said while the government had been able to arrange visas for family members in Ukraine, it was difficult to get men out of the country, but she wanted to reiterate that they were welcome in New Zealand.
She described the war as “incredibly damaging and destabilizing to Europe”.
“It is unlawful, it is unjust, and he [Putin] needs to know that the international community does not stand with him.”
The Nelson chapter of women’s organisation Soroptimist International raised $3000 for humanitarian relief in Ukraine at the event, a figure that was a combination of sales of peony tubers, supplied by Pure Peonies, and donations.
A choir put together by Nelson City councillor Pete Rainey performed Prayer for Ukraine.
Lawrey said he was really pleased with the way the event went, and it was great to have been able to give Ukrainians from across Te Tauihu a chance to share their “grief, pain and anger” with Kiwis who cared.
Nelson lawyer Steven Zindel was in the crowd wearing a colourful t-shirt of Putin with the caption he was told meant d..k h..d in Ukrainian.
“There are multiple translations of that,” said Dmytro Romanenko, “it’s to humiliate him. It expresses the worst you can say about someone.”
Zindel said the bullying and brutality of the war were tragic, he said.
“I just can’t understand why Putin did it. But hopefully good will prevail.”