Kane Te Tai (38) a pāpā and former NZDF soldier has died in Ukraine. Photo / Supplied
A tāne Māori fighting for Ukraine against Russia's invasion of the eastern-European country, has been killed in action.
Kane Te Tai (38) was a former New Zealand Defence Force soldier, who had served in Afghanistan, prior to joining the Ukrainian defence.
His mother Ngaire said he has been in regular contact on social media with a wide circle of friends, before that communication fell silent a couple of days ago.
“I’m hoping it is not true. I have that hope. He didn’t prepare me for how this might turn out.” she told NZME.
Te Tai, who is fondly called "Turtle," helped start the No Duff Charitable Trust, a group which helps current or former service members and their families in crisis.
Ngaire said her son, who grew up in Tāmaki Makaurau, was always drawn to protect communities and stand up for "the underdog," which is what led him to Ukraine.
“I wasn’t very happy with it,” she said of his decision to go. “But he’s a grown man and there’s nothing I could have done. His entire family tried to persuade him not to go. He’s a very complex fella, my son, but he’s always been very community spirited.”
Te Tai had joined the NZDF 'straight out of school', with his whānau supporting his decision, but Ngaire admitting she had concerns.
“He told his father and I - not the other way around. I hoped it would have worn off - but it didn’t.” she said.
Kane has a 12-year-old daughter and had even been discussing what he would get up to when he got home at the end of his current tour.
The Givealittle page set up for his charity is now accepting donations to help the whānau repatriate Te Tai's body, and for funeral expenses.
Any money left over will go to Te Tai’s young daughter.