National | Tangi

From Kawerau to Ukraine, Tuwharetoa nurse helps those in need

A Māori nurse who has been serving on the front lines of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has just returned home to accompany one of her closest friends, Kane Te Tai, on his last trip home.

Shannon Taylor, of Ngāti Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau, was the guest speaker at Te Teko RSA's dawn parade in the Bay of Plenty this week.

She discussed her experiences through the conflict and expressed her love and passion for not being in a war so much as for helping those in need and those affected or injured.

She said her life as a qualified nurse started five years ago, at te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi.

“I’ve been around New Zealand, volunteering in places like India and Africa. I then went to Ukraine, my placement full of war but I've always known that I became a nurse to be in mortal conflict areas.”

Shannon Taylor helps bring her friend home to his whānau.

Backed by Te Teko RSA

Taylor says her trip to Ukraine was made easier by the Te Teko RSA, which helped her through ā wairua and ā tinana.

“Before I left Aotearoa, I had a karakia with the Te Teko RSA and gained the guidance of our living war veterans and our tipuna.

“I shared a little korero back in the RSA when I was in a little incident. The tipuna that were on the wall in the RSA were with me - I was afraid that I was going to die and the thought that came to my head was the tipuna and Luke Tamatea, another guy from Kawerau, may he rest in peace - I could see them when I had that terrible accident, so I just want to thank my tipuna who are on the wall in the Te Teko RSA that had my back.

“I just felt that korowai of peace and love from them, so experiencing that just makes Anzac even more special for me this year.”

Taylor’s ngākau

Te Teko RSA president Hemana Waaka says this year’s Anzac Day was made special by all the fallen soldiers, the veterans who died this year and Shannon Taylor.

“We all felt the wairua of the Ukraine war. Shannon was supposed to die but with her tipuna here in Te Teko in her mind and heart, she remembers they are always with her though the question remains, ‘why did she want to go to war?’”

Waaka says it's Taylor’s ngākau (heart, mind and soul) that pushes her to continue her mahi, that it is in the way she presents herself with whānau, the way she speaks of her fallen mates and the way she expresses her concerns for whānau in Ukraine. “It is the way she continues to help those in need, everywhere she goes.

“In her mind and heart she wants to go and look after our soldiers who have been injured by the enemy and also the whanau. We are proud of her and everyone who has fought for us, for whanau.”

‘One in a million’

Taylor says this year's Anzac was made more special for her, as she mourns the death of her mate, ‘Turtle’ Kane Te Tai.

“He was really one in a million - it's a shame and why I came home really. It's good that I'm here, having a break, resting with my whānau but Kane has been on my mind and of course all of the other soldiers.”

“Even now, in Ukraine, there is still a lot of mamae, a lot of tragedy that's still happening. I hope that the way we are celebrating the lives and the freedom that we have, I hope that whānau in Ukraine will one day have the same freedom.”