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

The former Polish children refugees tell their stories

page 33

The former Polish children refugees tell their stories

These stories are mostly about the lives of the Polish children refugees in New Zealand. Before arriving here, they had spent five years in exile from their homeland on a horrendous journey during the turbulent years of World War II. They were deported from Poland during the early months of the war to forced-labour camps throughout Soviet Russia for two-and-a-half years, then evacuated to Iran for another two-and-a-half years before they finally reached New Zealand.

The experiences of that period were so intense and vivid that they have left a lasting impression in the children's minds, shaped their characters, and affected their reaction to the new and strange culture they found in New Zealand.

Each child had its own unique experiences, and their stories are bold in their own unique and personal way, but as a group they shared the same fate in exile. So to avoid repeating similar events in this book of their experiences before they came to New Zealand, three of their stories of the time just before the war, the forced exile in the USSR, their stay in Iran and journey to New Zealand were chosen as being representative of the group.

In the first story, Dioniza Choroś (Gradzik), 11 years old at the time, tells of her experience of the period leading up to the deportations and continues with a description of the journey through Iran to New Zealand. In the second story, Sister Stella (Józefa Wrotniak) was 16 when she was deported to the forced-labour camps in northern Siberia by the Arctic Circle. In the third story, Halina Morrow (Fladrzyńska) was seven when she was deported south to Kazakhstan to forced labour on collective farms.

The other stories are in alphabetical order of writers' current surnames and maiden names are in brackets.