From Kyiv to Auckland: A young Ukrainian lawyer
Viktoriya Pashorina-Nichols is a young lawyer practising at Simpson Grierson, and is Ukranian. She speaks to LawTalk about her journey and the plight of her family, friends and community back home.
On the 24th of February 2022, the people of Ukraine woke up to the engines of war rolling across their border. The Russian Federation started an unjust war against the peaceful people of Ukraine.
Since February, there have been millions of refugees fleeing Ukraine for safety, thousands of people have died and countless cities and historical sites are destroyed.
There are many Ukrainians in Aotearoa New Zealand who have strong connections back home. One such person is Viktoriya Pashorina-Nichols, a Ukrainian Senior Solicitor at Simpson Grierson. She spoke exclusively to LawTalk about her experience with Simpson Grierson, her career to date and the plight of the Ukrainian people.
“I have wanted to become a lawyer since I was about 12 years old,” started Viktoriya. “My dad introduced me to various individuals in different roles (doctors, stockbrokers, bankers, teachers etc.) in order for me to get an idea of what their day jobs really looked like. And, yes,
I picked to be a lawyer after going through the adoption process in New Zealand between the ages of 10 and 12, which resulted in me having a pretty good idea of what lawyers did, and I liked it!
“During my high school years studying in Spain, I had a weeks work experience with a New Zealand lawyer who was working in-house within the Alinghi team (yes, the America’s Cup team) who introduced me to the world of commercial law (because it is the most lucrative!) and specifically informed me about studying law at Victoria University of Wellington. About four years later, I started studying towards my joint degrees of Law and Commerce at Victoria University.
“I graduated five years later and was very fortunate to have been offered a Summer Clerk position and then a Law Graduate position with Simpson Grierson.”
Simpson Grierson has given the young Ukrainian some fantastic opportunities. “After having had the wonderful opportunity to experience different team rotations within Simpson Grierson at the start of my legal career, I felt that I could assist in the most meaningful way within our commercial department. Therefore, I have been working in our commercial team for the last six years, and truly enjoying it and feeling like I am making an impact.”
One of the opportunities I am most grateful for is being able to undertake pro bono work relating to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The war in Ukraine has a direct impact on me and my family. I was driven to apply myself (all the way from New Zealand) in the best way I can in order to assist Ukraine and its people.
For anyone with any connection to the conflict, it is a tough and harrowing conversation. No one can really appreciate the ordeal that many are experiencing. For Viktoriya, it is much more personal, close and real.
“I wish Russia did not invade Ukraine in February 2022, but here we are.”
When the attack began, it was critical to act fast to help my own family members and friends located in Ukraine, but also very important to widely advocate for the Ukrainian people.
“I have assisted with the relocation of my grandparents from Ukraine into Poland and then being driven to Italy, where they are now safe. I’ve also been communicating with family and friends in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, offering mental support and providing financial support because people are running out of money and supplies in many regions. In my spare time I have also been working alongside professional and talented volunteers in New Zealand behind the cause “Mahi for Ukraine”, which advocates for immigration, sanctions, humanitarian aid and diplomatic relations in order to help Ukrainian citizens.”
Mahi for Ukraine is a lobbying and advocacy body focussed on pushing the Government to take direct action against Russia in support of Ukraine. Their website notes “Ukraine might be far away from the NZ shores, and yet this is not a problem that we, Kiwis, can just ignore.”
“We have lobbied the Government, and one major win was the introduction of the 2022 Special Ukraine Visa by the Minister of Immigration, which permits Ukrainians with close family already living in New Zealand to relocate to New Zealand.
We worked with Mark Williams (Partner at Lane Neave), Shan Wilson (Partner at Simpson Grierson), Polly Pope (Partner at Russell McVeagh) and their teams, along with a number of other immigration lawyers and specialists, to provide assistance on a pro bono basis to Ukrainian citizens and their New Zealand family with navigating the immigration process under the new special visa. This included preparing a legal guide on the special visa that is publicly available on the Mahi for Ukraine website www.mahiforukraine.com/special-ukraine-visa and facilitating a training webinar on this visa that was attended by speakers from Immigration New Zealand and Lane Neave as immigration experts.
“We have also been working with a children’s author based in Auckland on a project where we are collecting messages of encouragement, friendship and welcome from children in New Zealand to be collated into a book to gift to Ukrainian children upon their arrival to New Zealand.”
“The impact of the above on me is that there is a lot of work that had to be done and that still needs to be done going into the future,” says Viktoriya.
“I am most concerned for the team of 45 million in Ukraine who are facing death on a daily basis, and I hope to encourage others to act swiftly in order to help and stand with Ukraine. I am extremely grateful to every single individual who has assisted by putting their hand up to support Ukraine and its people during such difficult and unprecedented times. Every thought, prayer, word, and action of support to Ukraine and its people truly means a lot.”