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

A selection of memories

A selection of memories

New Zealanders remember
A need for resourcefulness

New Zealanders are renowned for their resourcefulness. Give us a shilling, a piece of binder twine and number-eight wire, and we can fix anything. How good were we? Myself and a couple of mates from Pahiatua District School learned a thing or two one day on a visit to the Polish Children's Camp in Pahiatua.

We passed the hat around our class and gathered enough money to buy such things as oranges and bananas to take to the Polish kids at the camp. The idea was to make them welcome and generally fraternise in a friendly way, such as playing ball games and trying to make each other understood. It was great fun as I remember.

However, one Saturday we biked out to the camp, gave our gifts and went out to enjoy our usual games. After a couple of hours it was time to return to Pahiatua but one of our bikes was missing. We searched the camp with the help of the staff and the kids, but alas no joy. The whole matter had become serious and discussions were being held on the appropriate action to take, when somebody announced that the bike had been found.

The discovery was amazing. It was found between the mattress and the frame of a bed totally stripped to the last nut and screw – very impressive. This was a sombre comment on the resourcefulness developed in their need to survive under their conditions in forced exile. I always remembered this and it is a major factor in my respect for these people who are now valued citizens of New Zealand.