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

A new life

A new life

My first holiday in New Zealand was with the Morgan family in Wanganui, who tried to make every day a pleasant one for me, including a trip on the beautiful Wanganui River and the countryside. I saw beautiful lakes, some of which I was told were so deep that they reached all the way to Japan! I spent my annual holidays with other local families at no cost to me. All these people were most generous and good to me.

I was heartbroken to leave the camp when I had to go and live in Wellington on 20 September 1946. There, I boarded with four Polish girls and 76 of other nationalities in a girls' hostel in Oriental Bay. I started work three days later as a seamstress with three other Polish girls, travelling there by bus. Our page 59employer was pleased with our work and showed us up as an example to the other workers – he increased their work quota based on our performance. We lived below St Gerard's Monastery in Mount Victoria and attended Mass there regularly. Some of the local girls, indifferent until now, followed our example and became regular churchgoers. We became friendly with some Samoan, Maori and Chinese girls. After a few weeks, they joined us in the church choir.

During my holidays, I spent a week with the Davis family in Te Kuiti and visited the enchanting Waitomo caves, a hydroelectric power station and pretty Hamilton East. I also saw the sights of Auckland.

I was always drawn to the religious life and wanted to join an order of nuns among my own people. So I decided to leave New Zealand to study in Rome, closer to my native land. Father Broel-Plater, the Polish priest, made all the arrangements for me. I spent my last Christmas in the Pahiatua camp with my two sisters. I asked them if I could leave them and they replied with sadness that yes, if this was to make me happy.

Some children were returning to Poland to rejoin their parents who were parted from them during the escape from Siberia, so arrangements were made for me to accompany the group. On 7 May 1949, we sailed on the Rangitiki. Our little group was under the care of a Polish woman who was seasick all the way, so I had to take over the role of guardian. I enjoyed the voyage on the ocean. In Panama, I collected letters from my sisters and New Zealand friends. I became homesick for New Zealand and wished that the ship would turn around and take me back there. But I kept my resolve and all the way on the long voyage to Rome I met good and kindly people, and I thank God for all His blessings on me.