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My name is Nadia Zvonareva; I identify as a Russian New Zealander who is now a New Zealand Resident. I was born in Russia, where my family, relatives and ancestry originate from. Before I became a New Zealander, I experienced a challenging resettlement journey that took two years. It started in 2017 when I was forced to flee as a family person from Russia to New Zealand because of the ongoing oppression from the Government toward our community.

My family and I became New Zealanders in April 2019, when we received Permanent Residency. When we first arrived in New Zealand and became Asylum Seekers, we faced a lot of challenges regarding things like language, Kiwi food, and culture. However, we never had any problem with the Government. Once we became New Zealanders in 2019, my family and I felt joy. We were relieved, and we were happy that we made the right choice. We received more opportunities also we got privileges which are only for New Zealanders. We started receiving Work and Income benefits. We initially applied for a Kāinga Ora (Housing New Zealand) home, but we received the Housing New Zealand house after we became New Zealanders.

I like New Zealand because of the freedom we have here, and the social and economic opportunities have allowed me to develop my career as a Producer. My husband is a creator and video director. I have invested time in volunteer work, serving diverse ethnic communities, and educating myself to gain the appropriate knowledge. I have produced and released more than 50 videos with the help of my husband. Currently, our entire family, including my two daughters and my husband, is working voluntarily with Aotearoa Resettled Community Coalition (ARCC).

Because of the country we are from or what we believe in, we might have ended up in prison, but once we were liberated and became free people in another country where we have freedom of speech, we do not see anything that you do not like about this country. For example, if I was in Russia and I did not celebrate the traditional celebrations, people would start to ask, “Why haven’t you guys?” The Government might take the children away because they say the parents are manipulating the children, but here, we are free. We do not have fear from the Government.

The challenges I faced in my settlement and integration process were establishing a network, finding suitable employment, and feeling that I belonged in New Zealand society. Barriers include my name, plus the English language barrier. I still sometimes feel like I am not part of New Zealand society because of the language barrier. I have missed a lot about my country of origin, especially my family, friends and the food.

My message to new residents who have experienced a similar journey is to try your best. Do not isolate yourself. If you can help your community, please volunteer time. After coming to Aotearoa/New Zealand for just three weeks, we started a volunteer program in my children’s school. The most important part is avoiding isolation, and socializing with the community. Please do not look back to your past and regret. Always look forward and make New Zealand your home.

I would like to thank and give my heartfelt gratitude to the New Zealand government and the people who supported me. We received a warm welcome.

Please treat new residents with the same respect you give to your fellow New Zealanders, and I am sure they will provide you with the same respect as if you were from their country of origin.

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