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

Escape to Iran

Escape to Iran

The diplomatic relations between Russia and Poland had deteriorated and we in the Ashkhabad orphanage experienced unpleasant changes. The Russians arrested the adults, leaving the older children to run the institution. Under the supervision of only one adult, they did the cooking, washing and took care of page 69us younger ones. The Polish ambassador was forced to leave the Soviet Union. On the way out, he stopped at the orphanage and promised to do everything possible to get us out.

Our escape route out of Ashkhabad, south over the mountains into Iran, was over fearsome, steep, dangerously narrow and tortuous mountain roads with no room to pass. The wheels slipped on the gravel. On arrival in Tehran, we were quarantined in a transit camp for Poles. This was the first time we were served good food since our deportation from Poland. After a month, we were sent to Isfahan. Travelling by buses through the desert regions was very tiresome and always in thick clouds of dust.

Many of us children did not know our true age. During our stay in Russia we had changed it so often to suit our circumstances that after a certain time we were not sure how old we actually were. I was confused and it wasn't until I arrived in New Zealand that I found out my right age. In Isfahan the children were taken to various compounds in the city. We started school and life was tolerable with nutritious food. The rules of the institution never appealed to me and I always found an excuse to do something else or make mischief. It seems to me now that the more I attracted attention to myself the better I felt.