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

Inspiration to us all

Inspiration to us all

When my husband Jan Mokrzecki left the Polish Children's Camp in Pahiatua, he attended St Patrick's College in Wellington. He achieved high marks for entry to Victoria University of Wellington and completed an architectural degree. During his studies, he took on numerous manual jobs, such as dishwashing. We met while he was on holiday in New Plymouth, fell in love and were married two years later and had four children. Having graduated from university, they have each gone on to carve successful careers.

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In Jan's spare time, while working fulltime, he was asked by the late Monsignor Minogue of New Plymouth to design a classroom block and other projects, which made the news in the Taranaki Herald. He also did up an old farmhouse with 8½ acres of land, in which I helped.

In later years, Jan had a bad run of health problems. In the mid-1980s, stomach cancer took a heavy toll on him and despite not having a stomach, we owned and operated a hospitality venue. Also, a heart infection during that period necessitated a valve replacement. On selling the property and business, we bought a large home in Waikanae. After five years and lots of money spent on completely re-landscaping and other cosmetic changes, Jan said: "Let's sell and start to travel."

This man, against all adversity life has thrown at him, owns a one million dollar-plus freehold property, having started from zero. I'm sure all his Polish countrymen and women will, on reading this, be very proud of Jan, as our whole family is. He is an inspiration to us all.