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

A safe country with opportunity

page 153

A safe country with opportunity

Soon after arriving at the Polish Children's Camp in Pahiatua, I became ill with tuberculosis. I was moved to Masterton Hospital where one of my lungs was operated on, and my health improved.

During this time a young Maori couple, Mr and Mrs Horn, offered to adopt me. It was a pleasant surprise, but at that time us Polish refugee children thought we would still return to Poland so I had to refuse the invitation. After I was discharged from the sanatorium, I returned to the camp but much had changed. There were now only about 40 boys left, with whom I restarted my schooling at Mangatainoka School.

When the camp closed down, the remaining boys were moved to Linton Military Camp in Palmerston North where we attended St Peter's Marist School. After a short stay in the military camp, we were moved to the Polish Boys' Hostel in Hawera. I attended Hawera Technical High School where we first began to mix with Kiwi kids. This was an enjoyable time, playing rugby and rugby league. While I made some new friends there, I still tended to hang around with the other Polish boys from the hostel. At the end of Form 5, I began a mechanics apprenticeship in Hawera, which lasted for five years. During this time, I boarded with Max and Margaret Peters who have remained lifelong friends.

After the apprenticeship, I immediately moved to Wellington. Most of the guys I knew from the hostel had moved there and so for me the move was natural. By the end of my time in Hawera I was ready for the big city, where I went to work on the trams and buses because I'd had enough of being a motor mechanic.

I initially shared a flat in Princess Street with some of the guys from Hawera (including Bronisław Pietkiewicz and Jan Lepionka). I then moved to another place in Constable Street with another group of Poles (including Julian Nowak, Stanisław Prędki, Mieczysław Markowski, Roman Kraj, Stanisław Brejnakowski and Alfred Sapiński) where we lived the high life – going to dances, partying at our house, playing cards until the early hours and rugby on Saturday afternoons. We even formed a Polish social rugby team, which played on Sundays, and we always beat the opposition.

In 1966, I married Patricia Denton and we bought a house in Miramar, Wellington. Early in my marriage, I bought a taxi cab and was happy to page 154work for myself. However, on occasions I experienced some anti-feeling as a "foreigner" in Wellington, but this mellowed over the 15 years on the job, and was generally limited to the drunk and uneducated.

Patricia and I are the proud parents of six children and, because of my lack of formal education and my wife's profession as a teacher, we both agreed that education was to be of primary importance in raising them. They are all well qualified and successful in their careers. New Zealand has provided me with the chance to bring up a family in a safe environment with many opportunities for them to become educated and realise their potential.

Julian Mazur on the way to Wellington from Hawera for a holiday

Julian Mazur on the way to Wellington from Hawera for a holiday