A soldier from New Zealand who is volunteering with the Ukrainian military had a surprise when he was clearing a Russian position: a man in the basement was not an enemy soldier but instead a friend he thought had died.
Kane Te Tai said his unit had hit a Russian position during a battle in an undisclosed location and began to clear the basement when they heard a voice yell, “I’m Ukrainian.”
Fearing a trap, he said the soldiers began to search the men when the source of the voice locked eyes with him.
“New Zealand! New Zealand,” Te Tai said the voice shouted.
“I looked down. I recognised him, it was my friend who I thought was killed by the Russians when they invaded his house,” the New Zealand Defence Force veteran said. “Heavily starved for two months … he barely looked like the man I knew a couple of months ago.”
Te Tai posted helmet camera footage of the search and his reunion with his friend to Instagram, explaining: “It was the best thing to happen to me in this godforsaken war. To be able to save your friends is something that almost never happens but I’m thankful and feel blessed that it was us that could pull him from that hell hole.”
UPDATE: Kane Te Tai was killed in action near the frontline city of Vuhledar in Donetsk Oblast, New Zealand media reported on Tuesday, March 21.
RNZ reported he was clearing a trench at the time of his death and that efforts were underway to repatriate his body.
Te Tai’s charity No Duff, which provides veteran support services, said his death “leaves a huge hole in many lives from here to Eastern Europe.”
“We will ensure his legacy through No Duff lives on,” the organization said. Credit: Kane Te Tai via Storyful