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

My family's experiences

page 140

My family's experiences

On 24 May 2002, the four Łakomy children (my brothers Józef and Anicet, youngest sister Zenona and I), along with our children, grandchildren and friends, gathered for a reunion at the Ashfield Polish Club in Sydney.

My daughter Anna and son Tadeusz, unbeknown to us, had compiled the story of our lives in exile in Russia. The four of us were then presented with gifts, which spoke of some experiences in our lives and which have become a part of our family history.

I was given a doll in Polish national costume. I had told my children that one day, in the forced-labour camp in Siberia, my mother had scolded me because I made a doll using a small potato for the body, and sticks for arms and legs. Food was so scarce and precious that even small potatoes could make a difference. The beautiful doll I was given was the doll I never had.

Józef was given a book of all the different breads of the world and how to make them. We fled Siberia in 1942 to find our father who had joined the newly forming Polish army near the Caspian Sea. The train had stopped and the locals were selling bread. Józef raced off to get some bread for us but did not return before the train moved off. My mother was distraught thinking we would never see him again, but he had boarded another carriage and eventually rejoined us – with the loaves of bread.

Anicet was given a preserving jar with blueberries. He had been seriously ill on the way from Siberia to Iran and there was no medicine available. Mum had preserved some blueberries while in Siberia and these had helped him to recover.

Zenona was given a small porcelain milk jug. She was only 11 months old when we were deported from Poland and less than three years old when we were evacuated to Iran. The train had stopped and my mother told me to buy some milk from a Russian woman. Unexpectedly, the train began to move and I scrambled quickly from under the train carriage still clutching the pitcher of milk. I was quickly lifted into the carriage by two soldiers. The milk was for Zenona.

Life hung in the balance many times for us. We were blessed by God to have found a safe haven away from the troubles of the world. Our mother was with us and our father was wounded in the battle at Bologna, but he recovered and at the conclusion of the war rejoined us in New Zealand.