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

Polska! Polska!

Polska! Polska!

Countess Wodzicka, the wife of the Polish Consul to New Zealand, told the representative of The Herald that the Polish girls joyfully anticipated their day out at the gala. All were excited as the day approached and long faces greeted the sound of falling rain in the morning. But the rain must have cleared because the gala did take place at the Pahiatua showgrounds.

The main events at the gala were marching team displays. The Pringles team in the inter-house marching contest wore a red and white costume, and on their hats was embroidered a "P" for Pringles. As they passed the Polish children, the youngsters gave them a special round of applause, calling out "Polska! Polska!" Because white and red are Poland's national colours, the children thought that the "P" was for "Polska", the name of their beloved country Poland.

Before the second section of the inter-house marching competition, the Polish secondary school girls were assembled in front of the grandstand by their lady teacher. They sang two Polish songs and their sweet singing was loudly applauded by the crowd. Later, the girls were invited to stage a counterattraction behind the grandstand. A large section of the crowd was delighted with their singing and folk dancing. During the spell between the marching displays, the Polish girls were offered sandwiches and drinks.

Another time, a story went round about the Palmerston North Civic Band visiting the camp one Saturday afternoon. Such was the rush of the Polish youngsters to follow the band hard on the heels of the pipers, that hundreds of Polish children had to fight for positions. Near the camp hospital, the children were crowded off the roadway, little feet sinking deep into muddy patches. Everyone knew about the spotless camp dormitory floors, so the results of these feet rushing into the dormitories left little to the imagination.