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


My father John Thomson, a private in the New Zealand army, was stationed at the Polish Children's Camp in Pahiatua when the Polish children arrived. He was there to meet their train at Pahiatua Railway Station and the shock he got when he saw the children was, to say the least, unbearable.

He loved the youngsters and hence his Scouting career. He lived for it. In fact, I think he was in his Scout outfit more often than his army uniform. He would take them to Greytown for competitions with other troops and they would have a ball. Dad just could not do enough for them. His reward was seeing the change in them and enjoying their sense of humour.

Our family lived in the camp. My brother Ian and I were children at the time, so we made friends with some of the Polish children. We would go out the back of the camp where a farmer had a barn full of hay and a haystack, and climb up it and slide down. It was great fun. The laughter just rang out. What lovely people.

When my father left the camp in 1948, he received a card from the Polish troop. There were not many dry eyes among the boys and dad also cried. The card read, with its wonderful little spelling mistakes: