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New Zealand's First Refugees: Pahiatua's Polish Children

Mr S Zaleski Senior Polish Official Polish Children's Camp Pahiatua 17 August 1948

To Szczęsny Zaleski, representative of the Polish Government-in-Exile

Mr S Zaleski Senior Polish Official Polish Children's Camp Pahiatua 17 August 1948

Dear Sir,

I wish to refer to our recent discussions concerning the arrangements which might be made to safeguard further the care and wellbeing of the Polish children in New Zealand. As you are aware, the New Zealand authorities have always regarded the children as their guests and will continue to do so, but it is possible that some of them may now, or at some later time, wish to leave New Zealand and return to Poland. They may, therefore, wish to know the extent to which the Government will assist the repatriation of those who choose to return to Poland.

It has been suggested that those who have attained the age of 18 years and over should be given the opportunity of deciding whether they would like to return or to remain in New Zealand. I would like to inform you and those young Poles that, if they wish to go back to Poland, their repatriation will be facilitated or, if they choose to remain in New Zealand, they will be welcome to do so. It is the Government's wish that those young people should have page 29complete freedom of choice and that their decision should not be influenced by any consideration other than their future happiness.

It is anticipated that some of those who have attained the age of 18 might not then wish to make an election. In that event, there is no reason why such young people should not have three years in which to determine whether they wish to return to Poland. The Government is prepared to meet the full cost of the repatriation of those between the ages of 18 and 21 who choose to return to Poland.

Adults over 21 wishing to return, however, will have been in employment and should have been able to save from their earnings sufficient to make full financial provision to cover the cost of passage to Poland. If, however, there should be any case in which special assistance towards the cost of passage is desired, the Government will consider, on the merits of each case, their application for repatriation assistance for the purpose of determining whether any assistance is warranted.

I would like to make the contents of this letter known to all the persons having children under their care and these persons should be requested to assist in both the letter and the spirit of the Government's policy. Those employed in looking after the children should be asked to inform them of the Government's decision.

P Fraser

Prime Minister

Dominion of New Zealand Prime Minister's Office Wellington

Source: Archives New Zealand