New Zealand's First Refugees: Pahiatua's Polish Children
- • The wonderful parades – Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, Lady Baden-Powell's visit, the wreaths, flags, music, pomp and ceremony. I remember parade leaders such as Irena Wierzbicka and Janina Ratuszna (short legs, long strides). One day, Lady Baden-Powell came and after the parade was entertained to tea – we weren't invited, so we had our own parade while Frank Muller and Alexander Henderson stood on the be-flagged dais and solemnly took the salute in true Scout style.
- • Your love of being photographed – you'd pose for a picture anywhere, anytime.
- • After lunch on a hot, sultry, summer afternoon – children turning up to class with the "great treasure" of a half-finished lump of garlic (stuffed under the desk lid to save for later), the ensuing stink so unbearable that it called for instant evacuation. It was probably a good excuse for one of those long walks or a swim in the river.
- • The polio epidemic in the summer of 1948, when we were all confined to the camp.
- • The nightmare of taking groups on trains to deliver to holiday homes or new schools.
- • The sadness throughout the camp when a group left for Poland – but later the great happiness and pride with which family members welcomed returning soldiers and others from overseas.
- • The two doctors Dawidowska and Czochańska – their kindness to us, hospitality and wit, and the many laughs we had.
- • Sister Johnson in the hospital – so starched and white, and so kind.
- • My friend Mrs Tietze – we exchanged Polish/English lessons late at night and always over a drink or two (one for each leg and one for the head) as it improved the fluency. My Polish involved learning all the words and phrases necessary to understand what was being said behind my back, such as swear words. page 282• My bicycle – the line up to ride it straight after school and the persuasive methods used by Czesława Jackowska, Maria Najbert, Irena Wierzbicka and company to regulate rides.
- • I particularly remember the ingenuity of the children to make something out of nothing, especially boys like the Niedńwiecki brothers, Jan and Kazimierz, who cadged, picked up, "found" or borrowed bits and pieces to make their own bike – their pride and joy.
- • Finally, my most enduring memory – the success you and your families have been as a group in New Zealand and the great contribution you have made in so many fields of endeavour. Not least the way you have kept alive the practice of your Catholic faith and Polish culture.
My hope is that this will endure for generations to come while being ever mindful of the courage of those who started it all – the Polish children of the Pahiatua camp.