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

Meeting of two Polish waves

Meeting of two Polish waves

My family is descended from Polish immigrants who arrived in New Zealand in the late 19th Century. Every Sunday afternoon, my mum and dad (George and Rose Treder), Barbara, John and I (the youngest children), and our babcia (granny Treder) would visit the Polish Children's Camp in Pahiatua. Dad and babcia enjoyed speaking to the people in the camp in Polish, while mum would sit and listen to their English reading. She would often take flowers from her garden to give to the Polish ladies.

The children from the camp were often invited to the Treder farm in Konini. These were happy times in a big family atmosphere. The children would enjoy riding bikes, and my brother George would take both adults and children around the farm on the old Model T truck. What fun.

At the age of eight, I proudly wore the Polish national costume to a fancy dress at Mangamaire School. It had a brown velvet vest with a beautiful sequined butterfly on the back. My sister Barbara looked so Polish that one day she was reprimanded by a Polish adult who thought that she was one of her charges. My brother Bernard and his cousin Pat Connor spent many hours learning Polish so that they could communicate with the girls when they biked to the camp to visit them.

When some of the children returned to their homeland, the Treder family kept contact with many letters and food parcels. Others who stayed in New Zealand have also kept in touch. My husband Paul and I, and some of our children, have visited Poland and feel privileged to have put our feet on Polish soil.