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

In England

In England

At last the day arrived and we sailed for England on the Rangitoto. After many weeks of sailing we landed in Southampton. It was autumn there and I was homesick for New Zealand already. I passed a typing test and for three years worked for an insurance company in their typing pool. I was happy in my work and would have been quite content to settle in London with its social life, West End picture theatres, dance halls and various clubs.

In London, I met my future husband Ernie, who was a US citizen, and went to Vermont to join him. Later we moved to Fort Worth in Texas, where he worked in a service station and I as a waitress in a racially segregated cafeteria. Not able to have children, we tried adopting but without success. We eventually decided to move to New Zealand and settled in Gisborne where we built a house. I worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. In Texas, I had learned to tool leather and took it up as a hobby in my spare time, but the demand became so great that it became more like hard work.

We joined the Poverty Bay Archery Club and twice represented New Zealand in the World Field Crossbow Championships in England in 1984 and 199, where we won many prizes and medals. We are both qualified coaches and my husband was the New Zealand Archery registrar, judge, selector and coordinator. We also imported archery items and operated the Gisborne Archery Supply business.

I was once asked if we were happily married. After 32 years of marriage, I would pick the same man again. None of us gets the partner with all the qualities we like and it takes a long time to understand another person – perhaps never. Without discussions and compromise, misunderstandings page 73can have serious repercussions. I like to believe that we each contributed to making the other becoming a better person. His memory is still with me and I hope it will never vanish.

My spiritual life was affected by my rebellion against the small role women played in the Catholic Church. Sometime after the Second Vatican Council, I returned with a more positive view of the Church. These days I live alone, but my life is always busy with voluntary church work and my hobbies.

In a way, I consider myself lucky. What I experienced during my younger years taught me how to survive, and it made me stronger both mentally and spiritually. Sometimes I think about my years as an orphan and how little life meant to me in those days. I felt strong anger at something, the whole world I guess. This led me on occasions to ignore the rules. My regret is that I am unable to apologise to those who were involved in my welfare at the time. Now I understand, admire and respect people that help those who are less fortunate.