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

Polish children's 10th anniversary of arrival

Polish children's 10th anniversary of arrival

Ten years had passed since the Polish children's arrival in New Zealand on 1 November 1944. The Sisters and girls decided to celebrate that anniversary in their hostel in May 1955. Official guests were invited and notices sent out to former inhabitants of the hostel.

At the jubilee concert was a representative of the Government (Ernest Corbett, MP), a representative of the Catholic Church (Monsignor Arthur McRae), the Rector of Polish Catholic Mission (Father Broel-Plater) and other priests (Father Huzarski who was a Dominican, Father Leahy and Father O'Neill), poet Eileen Duggan and her sister, members of the hostel board, many well wishers, and of course the Sisters and Ngaroma girls, both past and present.

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The concert began with very friendly and informal speeches by Minister Corbett, Monsignor McRae, Father Broel-Plater and Stefania Sondej (Manterys) on behalf of the girls. There were Polish dances and recitations, but the most exciting and moving part was the documentary of the arrival of the Polish children in New Zealand, filmed by the National Film Unit. The excited, confident and healthy young adults watched the pathetic-looking children in the film, recognised themselves, and here and there tears began to flow. But the film reminded them also of the extraordinary friendliness with which the people of New Zealand welcomed them those 10 years before. The hostel also resounded with excited voices of young mothers showing off their "home" to their families.