Family first for Russian couple

Migrant stories

Igor and Saha Anany were thinking of their family’s future when they moved to New Zealand, and just a few years later, they’re settled and thriving.

Russian family move to New Zealand

Igor and Saha Anany were thinking of their family’s future when they moved to New Zealand

Getting married in 2010 prompted Igor and Saha Anany to start thinking about where they wanted their children to be born.

The couple lived in Moscow, Russia, at the time. Igor had previously owned a business there, but says it was difficult dealing with so much corruption – and the couple wanted their future children to grow up in a safer, more stable environment.

Igor and Saha researched various immigration opportunities and narrowed it down to three countries. Canada was too cold, and Australia too hot and full of insects – so they aimed for New Zealand.

Igor found the Immigration New Zealand website (www.immigration.govt.nz) very informative, and he contacted a Russian community forum here for help with other questions. They came here in late 2011 so Igor could study web development for a year, then he found work and gained a skilled migrant visa.

“I could have applied under the skilled migrant category outside Russia and without a job offer, but it could take up to two years of waiting – so I decided not to because we wanted to have a child soon.”

Igor’s student visa allowed him to work 20 hours a week, so he could practise his English and see how the industry worked here. Two years after graduating, while working for another company, he decided the time was right to start his own business.

“I opened my company the day after I got my residency visa. The thing I really love about New Zealand is it's easy to open a company, because you can just go to a website and it guides you through everything,” Igor says.

He kept his full-time job for another year before landing a good project and leaving to concentrate on his business six months ago. Already his company, 7 glyphs, provides mobile application and web development services and has a team of five people.

But it wasn’t always such smooth sailing – Saha, a graphic designer, had problems with isolation.

“The first year was very hard for her to be away from family and friends,” says Igor. “She got pregnant straight away, so she was staying at home and her English wasn't good at all, so she was struggling.”

Though Igor was out and about more, he had problems speaking English too – even for something as simple as buying a SIM card for his mobile phone.

“Education helped me, because I was studying at Natcoll Design Technology School [now Youbee School of Design], and after about four months I started to understand everyone.”

Certain things surprised the couple, though. Images of green grass, sheep and from the Lord of the Rings movies made them think the whole country would look that way.

“When we arrived in Auckland we actually never thought about Auckland as a city,” says Igor. “Also, we’re used to tall buildings and Auckland was completely flat.”

They’d always lived in apartment blocks, so they decided to try living in a rented house. “That was a completely new experience for us, especially at night-time. It's scary when you look outside the window, it is completely dark,” Igor laughs. “All these scary movies go to your head!”

Igor and Saha have enjoyed discovering farmers markets, such as the weekly market in Clevedon, where food products are often organic and sold by the people who make them. Buying cigarettes is much more expensive than in Russia, so Igor eventually gave up smoking.

I feel very safe here – that's the first feeling I actually recognised, that I don't feel stressed anymore. I feel very safe.

They’ve also found Kiwis to be very willing to help, “even if they couldn't understand me or I couldn't understand them, they were very friendly,” says Igor.

The couple’s first child, Nathaniel, was born in December 2012, and Igor was thrilled to be by his wife’s side the whole time. “I was allowed to be there and cut the cord myself, which is completely not allowed in Russia. You can't be even in the room.”

He also pays tribute to support from Plunket, which helps families with young babies. “They have a 24/7 phone line and I called them a lot because we didn't know what to do with the baby, that was a completely new experience for us. We didn't have our parents or friends here, and that was our first year in New Zealand.”

Saha has joined a group of Russian mums who teach their children their language and culture, and the couple are still improving their English. Igor advises any potential immigrants to prepare themselves for challenges, and to learn English as much as possible before arriving.

In the next five years, they hope to buy a house, expand Igor’s business, and apply for citizenship. Oh, and add another child to the family – hopefully a daughter. They’re happy to be raising their children here.

“I feel very safe here – that's the first feeling I actually recognised, that I don't feel stressed anymore. I feel very safe,” says Igor.

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