Polish Boys' Hostel in Hawera
By the end of 1948, there remained only 42 boys in the Polish Children's Camp in Pahiatua. For the first term of 1949, they attended local schools, which was also their first year completely in English. What they lacked in academic achievement they made up on the sports fields. In May 1949, they sadly departed the camp in army trucks for Linton Military Camp, south of Palmerston North, lived in army barracks and followed army routine. Buses took them to Sunday Mass and to school in Palmerston North. They soon became more fluent in English.
Polish Boys' Hostel in Hawera, Princess Street extension. The hostel existed from 1949 to 1954, having achieved its objective of gradually absorbing its group of Polish children into the community
The living quarters, grounds and gardens were well kept by the boys on a roster basis. They worked hard to create a very large vegetable garden, and restored the orchard to produce a variety of fruits and berries. Each morning and evening they gathered for prayers, and attended Mass on Sundays and holy days at the local gothic parish church. The Polish priest Father Broel-Plater visited every few months to celebrate Mass and devotions in Polish.
The boys completed the 1949 year at St Joseph's Convent School, taught by Sister Pauline and Sister Charles Cowan. The latter came out of retirement to teach "her Polish boys" and taught English syntax and grammar, writing, maths, early New Zealand history, and government and political structures, plus religious instructions, prayers and hymns. A dynamic and gifted teacher with a no-nonsense approach, and powerful singing voice, she prepared them for high school and the New Zealand way of life. Several of the boys achieved academic distinctions, including English and public speaking.
From 1950, the boys attended Hawera Technical High School, some 3km away. They bought bicycles with their pocket money, which was hard earned from after-school and Saturday jobs mowing lawns, gardening or working on nearby farms. The people of South Taranaki were very supportive and provided these jobs for them. The boys earned their respect and lived up to their high expectation of honesty and hard work. They went on bicycle trips on Sundays and grew in strength, stature and responsibility.
The boys were also a dominant presence in the college, especially in sports but also in the classrooms, and were recognised for their dedication to hard work and play. Upon leaving school, the local people readily offered board to them. Some took up apprenticeships or farmed nearby, while others went to college. There was little encouragement to take up professional careers. The attraction was to earn one's own money and become independent.
At the end of 1954, the hostel was closed and reopened as Calvary Hospital under the care of the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, dedicated to the care of the sick and the dying. Later it became a privately owned rest home and hospital.
The boys had a life full of rich experiences.