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

You eat my culture and I will eat your culture

You eat my culture and I will eat your culture

The Polish Children's Camp in Pahiatua, 1946. Two of us Standard 6 girls were tidying up the New Zealand teachers' dining room. While cleaning out the cupboard, we found a piece of revolting mouldy cheese so we threw it out. Then we were surprised that instead of thanking us, the teachers told us off.

St Dominic's College, Dunedin, 1947. One of the teachers, a Dominican Sister by the nickname of Winnie the Pooh, asked me in class what sort of food we ate in Poland. With the aid of a Polish-English dictionary, I told her "kwaśne mleko" (fermented milk). Everybody pulled a face and somebody commented: "Ooh, rotten milk." I went red and was most ashamed that in Poland we ate rotten milk.

2004. I am a glutton for blue-vein cheese, and all the contemporaries of my former classmates consume yoghurt by the litre – some of it most definitely rotten tasting!