Standing in the Mururika soldiers' urupa (cemetery) at Ohinemutu an emotional Evangelia Kenellis marvelled at the coincidence that brought her there exactly 75 years after the Battle of Crete.

Visiting Rotorua with her son George and his family from Raglan on Sunday, she had vivid memories of the day Germans invaded the island that's been her home all her 80 years.

Among the most vivid were the members of the Maori Battalion who her village sheltered and fed on horta, Crete's equivalent of puha.

"We were starving, there was nothing for us to eat but horta, but when the Maori soldiers came we went out into the fields and gathered it for them; we survived on that and olive oil so that's what they survived on too."


She told how the Cretans literally gave the clothes off their own backs to disguise battalion members attempting to make their way to the coast.

Mrs Kenellis was 5 when Germany invaded.

"My sister was only 4-months-old, to make us safe, survive, our parents put us into a tub and turned it upside down to stop the shrapnel and shells falling on us. It was such a significant trauma I will never forget that.

"The Maori, all New Zealanders, were very brave men in Crete, they fought hard for our country; we will never forget that, that is why we love your country. It as if the hand of God has brought me here today."

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