Pavlo and Oksana Constantinova with their children Misha, Ivanna and Dasha (front) with their family in Auckland.[Source: NZ Herald]
As bombs and air strikes rained down on Ukraine, Auckland couple Alyona and Vadym Oryshchuk spent every waking moment on their phones as they tried to get relatives out of the war-torn country.
Alyona’s sister and her family were forced to flee from their home in Kyiv when Russian forces began their invasion in February.
The worry was the worst, Alyona said, not knowing whether her family would get across the border safely, and how they would fare once they got there.
Unbeknownst to Alyona and Vadym, their upstairs neighbours in their Mission Bay flat overheard their plight.
“Our neighbours … told us about their daughter Kim, she called us and offered us the help we needed to get our relatives here safely. We got the upstairs flat for them to live in.
Kim put the word out and the community started pouring in all the donations.
“It was like an angel had come into our lives, we did not even know her,” Vadym said.
When the couple needed help with rent payments to secure a rental for the family as they encountered issues with air travel, the community fundraised to donate what they could.
“We were lucky that the community had been generously supporting us because we’re not in a good position to sponsor our families, we only had limited savings. We actually cannot thank the people who donated enough, that’s the only reason we were able to get our relatives safely here.
Not everyone is lucky in that sense.”
Oksana, her husband Pavlo, and kids Ivanna, 10; Dasha, 8; and Misha, 5, safely arrived in Auckland on July 26.
They endured an unimaginable journey to get here.
“You would not believe … it was very dangerous,” Oksana told the Herald.
“It just continued, the bombing. We decided to leave for someplace safe, Poland was the nearest neighbouring country we could find.”
On the way, the family witnessed multiple air strikes from Russian forces.
“It was a tough journey,” she said.
Vadym said his brother was also from Kyiv but decided to stay back and fight for his country.
“He joined the military forces and was wounded in battle, he had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. I am just glad he is safe and out of danger’s way, really.”
And the help offered by their neighbours and the community was “beyond expectation”.
“Some people just brought things over and helped us assemble furniture. It was very amazing. From beds, fridge, sofas, to herbs and spices, they donated everything you see in the flat. People were genuinely wanting to help.”
Kim Posner, who was behind the community fundraiser, said she did not want Vadym and Alyona to end up in a hard situation – desperate and burdened by worry about how their family would live in a new country.
“It was something I could do, so I thought I would give it a go. The community’s generosity was astounding because many of them don’t even know me. I guess so many people have trust and love in their hearts.
“It was nice to know that the family were coming to a nice home, and the children were able to attend school.”
Alyona said Kohimarama School had been very welcoming of the children, especially considering what they had gone through.
“We have no words … the school donated the uniforms and stationery to us, we were also not required to pay the usual annual fees.
“Vadym’s employer has also offered to assist with a job to Pasha.”