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

Stanisław Dygas' obituary

page 259

Stanisław Dygas' obituary

I would like to welcome Mrs Evans from Pahiatua, and Kathy, Bronwyn and Howard Evans. All the time I have known Stan, he always talked about the Evanses and called them his New Zealand parents. Also a good friend of Stan's was Jimmy Bryant from Pahiatua whom Stan had shorn sheep and spent a lot of time hunting with during his days in Pahiatua.

Friendship is a priceless gift that cannot be bought or sold. But its value is far greater than a mountain of gold. I knew Stan for nearly 40 years and spent seven-and-a-half of them at Mangaone Station near Taihape with him. I always thought of him as a good friend. Stan was born in Poland in Skoraty, which was on the border with Russia. His father was a farmer. Stan had three sisters and two brothers. When the Germans invaded Poland, his father, a soldier in the Polish army, was shot. Stan and his family were deported by the Russians to Siberia where they spent two years in a forced-labour camp. His mother died of starvation in this camp.

Stan and his brothers and sisters were evacuated to Iran where they stayed for two years. He was nine years old when he was brought to New Zealand with his younger sister Krystyna and many other Polish children. They were placed in the Polish Children's Camp in Pahiatua. I'm not sure exactly what happened to Stan's brothers and other sisters after Iran, but one brother went back to Poland some years later and the rest live in England. Krystyna went to England where she has lived for some years.

I'm also not sure what Stan did after the Pahiatua camp, but between the ages of 18 and 19 he worked for Charlie Seblyn and Johnny Evans, who was Kathy, Bronwyn and Howard's grandfather. He also worked casually in the area. Stan loved rugby and used to play in Pahiatua every Saturday. Before the game, he worked dagging a shed full of ewes. One day, the workers decided they would be too tired to play rugby after dagging the whole shed, so they got two buckets and poured water all over the sheep. When the boss arrived, they told him the sheep were too wet to dag. But the boss had been looking through the window, so Stan and his mate had to dag all the sheep wet. They missed the rugby.

From Pahiatua, Stan arrived at Mangaone Station where he worked for about 18 years. Hugh Chisholm was the manager at the time and then Peter Green. I first met Stan 40 years ago at Makokomiko Station. I was put in the page 260hut at Shangri-la and heard a noise on the roof near the chimney. I thought it was a possum, so I went out with my gun. But it was only Stan putting a sack over the chimney to try and smoke me out. On my first day at Mangaone, we had to take the jeep across the Otupae Stream, which was in flood. Halfway across we stalled. Stan crawled out the window and jumped up and down on the roof, and so I managed to jump start it across the stream. Stan worked long and hard hours on Mangaone. He would come in with his face all black and covered in dirt. He loved his cup of tea and a smoke, and always boiled the billy while having his smoke.

Stan got to know Lester Chisholm very well. During university holidays, Lester, who is a High Court judge in Christchurch, worked with Stan. They both kept in touch all these years. There is a paddock at Kelly's called Stan's Mistake. One winter's day with about three feet of snow outside, we were playing cards and getting tired of stoking up the fire. So we helped Stan up to the roof and threw him up the wood. He stacked the fire from the top. It burned all day and night, and we didn't have to get up and stoke the fire.

Rosemary and Stan were married while on Mangaone. When Wayne was four, they left and bought a house in Taihape. In all the years I was in Kaiangaroa, Stan did the docking, TB testing, crutching and dagging. I could ring Stan asking for 15 men and they would be there next day. If I was away, he would always ring Jenny to see she had enough firewood or if there was anything he could do. We always had a standing joke that he wouldn't come docking or take on deer work unless there was a ham provided in the tucker box.

Stan's greatest joy was his family. Between him and Rosemary, they were very involved with rugby and netball. His involvement with midget rugby was outstanding and employment of young players within the town was admired. I used to call him Mr Wins. He had a great vegetable garden of which he was very proud and his family was never out of firewood. I will miss the cheek he used to give me and the telephone call on Christmas Day. Stan always rang on Christmas Day.

Stan, may the wind be always at your back, the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.