Grief at woman's delayed Sandgate burial

GRIEVING children of a Hunter woman have been forced to embalm her because waterlogged earth at Sandgate Cemetery has delayed her burial by almost two months.

Irena Petrovic, a Ukrainian-born former World War II prisoner of war who emigrated to Australia with husband Milos in 1949, died in early May.

But her distraught family has been unable to lay her to rest beside her late husband, with the water problems in the grounds making it impossible for work to proceed.

The delays are also putting pressure on family members trying to observe Mrs Petrovic's Russian Orthodox beliefs, with a need to inter her body as soon as possible.

Mrs Petrovic's son Dennis said the situation was "heart-breaking" for the family.

"As cremation is not an option, and as the burial cannot take place until conditions are favourable, we have been instructed by the funeral chapel management to have our mother embalmed," Mr Petrovic said.

"We need closure and the departed need dignity, but unfortunately we are at the mercy of both natural and man-made elements."

Several factors have been identified as potential causes of the drainage problems, including the neighbouring Shortland to Sandgate bypass project.

A Roads and Maritime Services spokeswoman said a groundwater expert would prepare a report on the construction site by September, with further drainage work due to begin soon.

"[Contractor] Thiess is expected to progressively start work on this and other associated work in coming weeks," she said.

Mrs Petrovic's son-in-law Dragan Gakovic thanked Sandgate Cemetery Trust for its support of the family, and its work to find a solution to the issue.

"We're doing all in our powers," a cemetery trust spokesman said.

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