After living abroad for 30 years, one Kiwi returns home to NZ amid Covid-19 in journey fraught with tragedy

More than 50,000 Kiwis have returned home since Covid-19 struck, one of them, a family fresh from Beirut, have endured a perilous journey home.

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Sunday is with Lorna Butler, her husband and son as they emerge from managed isolation into a country they call home but barely know. Source: Sunday

Lorna Butler, her husband and young son were fortunate enough to escape last month’s port explosion in Beirut but after 30 years living away from New Zealand, Butler had to battle tough situations to get here.

Butler grew up in Dunedin has travelled and worked all over the world as a successful hair and make-up artist.

She was in working Dubai when Covid-19 hit and after going into lockdown there, was unable to get back to Lebanon which was her home at the time and where her husband, Maroun Sfeir and four-year-old son Enzo, were living.


“Enzo suffered. He suffered badly, I was there for like 10 weeks so I was crying outside this embassy because my son was in pieces, he was like, “mummy's not coming home," Butler told Sunday. 

Added to that was the death of her sister, the news her dad was seriously ill in Invercargill, the rising cost of airfares and escalating conflict in the Middle East.

Butler and her family were able to secure tickets to fly to New Zealand to visit her sick father but not before saying painful goodbyes to their Beirut family.

But tragedy was still ahead as she was denied compassionate leave from managed isolation to say her last goodbyes to her dad.

Now as the family settles in a somewhat foreign homeland, their new journey begins.

For the full Sunday story, watch the video above.