Nothing is impossible
Ever since I was eight years old I wanted to be a school teacher. Security and friendship were the motivation, and I enjoyed school, the friends I made there and the learning. At the Polish Children's Camp in Pahiatua I finished my primary schooling in Polish, with only one hour of English a day. My English was not fluent and my vocabulary was poor – pronouncing words, such as the "th" sounds, and spelling caused me a lot of trouble.
In 1949, I was sent to Sacred Heart College in Wanganui as a boarder. Life there was difficult, and I was lonely and uncomfortable. Being separated from my friends at the camp and seldom hearing my own language was also a problem. From a confident and a bright student I became withdrawn, shy and reluctant to talk in case I said the wrong words. And of course my accent showed me up immediately.
Life was difficult. I was virtually learning three languages – Latin, French and English. My input in the class was meagre as I did not want to appear stupid. So I was given some speech lessons to help me with my difficulties. Looking back, I realise that my life and study there were beneficial and I was being prepared for the future. The school years rolled by and time gathered momentum. Armed with School Certificate, I left the boarding school and went to live at the Polish Girls' Hostel in Lyall Bay, and attended Wellington Teachers' College from 1954 to 1955, where I studied hard.
It was hard work but I was determined to succeed. My financial situation was difficult as well. Some students were reminded to cash their cheques promptly, but that was never my problem. Mine was how to stretch my budget. I earned £22 a month. From that, I paid £12 for my board and the rest had to cover books, tram and bus fares, and clothing. What to do?
So I went to work at the Steamship Company laundry in Evans Bay. The work was difficult, steamy and exhausting. I worked fulltime during school holidays and part-time during terms. The work gave me some extra money and even more determination to succeed with my studies, but there was no way I was going to work there for life.
Thank goodness that in those days one could buy fish and chips for only a sixpence. There were no government student loans in those days, so you had to survive somehow or go under. Of course, if I was desperate, I could always have asked Mrs Zaleska for some help. She worked at the Social Security page 124Department and oversaw the welfare of the Polish children and the youth. However, I was determined to be independent.
The two years at the teachers' college on the whole passed quickly. By the end of 1955, I had completed my two-year course successfully and was on top of the world. Jubilation, ambition accomplished – I was a primary school teacher. My first position was in Masterton West School and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember one of the children in my class asking me: "Are you going to be with us for the whole year?" "Yes, I will," I said. And I was. The children were great, and the teaching staff were helpful and loyal.
I taught at different schools throughout my life. When my children left school, ambition returned. I went to Victoria University and graduated with the Diploma of Teaching English as a Second Language. I also obtained an Advanced Diploma in Teaching through Wellington Teachers' College.
Throughout my life, I encouraged my children to study and work hard. I believe that knowledge of the world and its people makes us more tolerant towards each other, and thus we become better citizens of this world. I have had a good life and I am proud of what I have achieved.