75 years since Polish refugees arrived in Pahīatua

polish children

75 years ago 732 Polish refugees – most of them orphans – arrived by boat from Iran after the second world war to make their home in New Zealand.

Today most of the remaining former refugees are in their 80s and 90s.

But last weekend many of them met in Wellington and in Pahīatua with their Kiwi children and grandchildren; friends, Polish officials and supporters to mark the 75th anniversary of their arrival.

The daughter of two of the refugees, Stan and Zofia Januszkiewicz, Krysia Januszkiewicz Reid, is chair of the organising committee for the 75th-anniversary commemorations.

Friday started with a trip to the old camp, which is now a farm, followed by a lunch, social gatherings and mass for the original Polish Pahīatua children and their families.

Krysia was lost for words when she described how special the weekend was for her family and others like it.

“We heard stories all the time, my grandfather found my uncle and my father after the war through the Red Cross and he lived with us, so it is very real.”

“To me, it just sort of reminds me that I won’t have my parents here forever.”

“It just reminds us of how easy we have things here, and what they have gone through as well.”

She says all members of the committee have parents who were part of the original Pahiatua children.

Krysia says the weekend is for her parents, to honour what they have been through.

Thanks to the efforts of New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser, his wife Janet Fraser and Countess Maria Wodzicka, wife of the Polish Consul in New Zealand, the 733 children and their 102 caregivers were brought from Iran, to which they’d been evacuated, to New Zealand.


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