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The Blood We Share Runs Deep

The Blood We Share Runs Deep

Stefan Tarr and Pita Pirihi had never met each other, yet they were bonded by blood.

The deeply moving stories of these men – Stefan, Pakeha, and Pita, Maori – are told in a new documentary project, The Blood We Share, from Maori Television.

Pita’s great uncle, Ngawaka Pirihi, was one of the first Maori to enlist for service in the medical corps and both men’s great grandfathers fought in the Battle of the Somme, widely regarded as one of the bloodiest battles of WW1.

“I can only imagine what my uncle went through. He went into his shell when he came home from the war and [doctors] were still taking shrapnel out of his limbs well into his fifties,” says Pita.

In early April Stefan and Pita both donated blood for the film project. They also spent three days together talking about their descendant’s experiences and the impact the war had on them and their families. Inspired by this, a unique artwork of the ANZAC poppy was painted for Maori Television’s innovative campaign.

Stefan's great grandfather, Reginald John Claude Jellie was a sergeant in the New Zealand Army, serving from February 1916 – 1919. Ngawaka took a different path, serving five years with the Main NZ Expeditionary Force in the 1st Field Ambulance with the NZ Medical Corps.

However, there were parallels. Both Claude and Ngawaka signed up at just 20 years old, left New Zealand for war at the same time, and suffered shrapnel wounds.

“Our families’ bonds are similar. Ngawaka and Claude both had the core values to fight, they were on the same page, they stood up for their country,” says Stefan, who has always had a deep respect for his grandfather.

Filming The Blood We Share and learning more of his great grandfather’s story was a hugely emotional experience for Stefan, who had previously visited the Somme and the memorial in the village of St Fleurs, which Claude helped to liberate.

“I wasn’t aware he fought at Passchendaele too and meeting Pita was huge for me. Our ancestors were in the same area, doing the same thing – that in itself is pretty moving.”

Pita agrees saying finding out more about his tupuna has had a profound effect on him.

“It has changed me dramatically. To be able to stand at the dawn service this year, hold my head up high and feel the pride and mana knowing my uncle was one of the first Maori to enlist, ANZAC Day means a lot more to me now.”

Speaking about The Blood We Share, Ian Howard, head of marketing and brand at Maori Television, says the aim is to highlight the importance of the ANZAC tradition and acknowledge the huge sacrifice the soldiers made during WW1.

“We wanted to bring two everyday people together – one Maori, one Pakeha – to share their family’s very personal memories of the war and put the blood we shared as a nation at the forefront.”


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