As a refugee in her early 20s she fled Latvia, escaped a war zone in a German tank, would later live in seven countries and receive two cards from the Queen.
Havelock North's Ortrude Stradulis has endured a remarkable 10 decades.
Better known as Diana Tiller, she was born in Latvia 100 years ago and celebrated her centenary on Thursday.
As a younger woman, she was one of many Latvians who fled the country during WWII.
She initially fled to Germany in a German tank.
"They took me through the borders and left me in the train station ... somebody just took me under their arms and pushed me through the [train] window and I landed in a very nice lady's lap, I just collapsed in there."
She took some personal items on her escape but had to leave them all behind when she got on the train, left with only her handbag to take with her.
"You hadn't the time to be scared, because you couldn't afford to be."
While on the train, she and the other passengers would have to get out and hide underneath it when it was bombed.
She spent only a few months in Berlin then the war progressed and Berlin started to be bombed, so she fled again with some friends to Austria.
The trains weren't sticking to times "so we just took one and hoped for the best that we could get to Austria, which we did eventually".
When in Austria, she lived in a camp for displaced persons with others from across Europe.
Women from the camps would be invited by the British Forces to dances and parties and it was here, when in her mid-20s, she met her future husband Bill Tiller.
They were engaged in Austria but Bill was sent back to the UK, so it was some time before they could meet up again.
She managed to get to the UK and surprise Bill and they were married in Whitchurch in July 1948, spending more than 60 years together, and receiving a card from the Queen on their 60th wedding anniversary.
They had three children – Lenard, Ramona and Clive in England – and travelled to and lived in Egypt and Malta with their children during Bill's military service.
Diana has fond memories of Malta. The lifestyle was relaxed, social and once they saw Prince Phillip visit.
"Wherever we have been I enjoyed the life there, because it was easy life."
Diana returned to visit Latvia for the first time since the war in the 1990s and said "the champagne flowed when Latvia regained its independence, but life was difficult for most people as they had very little".
After her daughter Ramona and son-in-law Bob shifted to New Zealand, Diana and Bill visited a few times, "to check we were living properly," then shifted in 1988 with a view of staying for 10 years, but enjoyed it so much they stayed and became New Zealand citizens.
Her advice to people is to enjoy life and "a few scotches don't hurt".