4 November – Invitation to Victoria University Event

Victoria University of Wellington warmly invites members of The Polish Association to attend a special event for
the University to mark the 75th anniversary of the Polish children arriving in New Zealand. This event is for the
University to acknowledge its Polish alumni (and their descendants) on this special milestone and to formally
acknowledge their contribution to both the University and to New Zealand.
We are delighted to announce that as part of this event Krystine Tomaszyk will present a copy of her new book
“Polish Children in Isfahan – 1942 – 1944” to the University.

Light refreshments will be served following the speeches and book presentation.

Date: Monday 4 November Time: 6.00-7.30pm

Venue: University Council Chamber, Level 2, Hunter Building, Kelburn Parade, Kelburn, Wellington

RSVP: to alumni@vuw.ac.nz by Wednesday 30 October.

Helen Dougherty, Senior Engagement & Alumni Advisor, Victoria University of Wellington


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Pahiatua Children – NZ First Generation

Every group of people who enter a new country in order to settle, come with the attitude of making a new home. They look for new opportunities, for kinds of education offered for their children, for types of employment available for those who are prospective bread winners, for economic and political environment offered for families. In many cases, these people, whether they are immigrants, or refugees, are encouraged to take lessons on life in New Zealand. These are organised by various groups, such Citizens Advice Bureaus, Local Councils, Adult Education courses.  They start making plans.

In 1944, however, a totally different group of people arrived in this country. It consisted of 733 Polish children from the age of an infant to teenagers, both boys and girls. There were also 105 Polish personnel. This was the largest group of new comers up to that time. And they were not immigrants nor refugees.

Both, refugees and immigrants leave their country because of their own decision. The decision may be influenced by various factors such as hunger, unemployment, etc. but the decision to leave and seek life elsewhere is made by the people concerned themselves.

Let us look briefly at why Polish people came, what effect these factors had on the process of their settlement and on the future of the First NZ. Generation born in New Zealand.

  1. Polish people who left Poland between February 1940 and June 1941 did not leave Poland of their own accord. At the beginning of WW2, they were taken by force with their families from their homes in Poland, transported to various parts of Siberia in the Soviet Union to remain there, living in deprivation, sickness and hard labour for the rest of lives. Many family members, especially the elderly and the young had died.
  2. In 1941, an amnesty was declared between Polish Government in London in Exile and the Soviet Government, whereby, Polish people would be freed from places of their imprisonment and would form a Polish Army to help Soviets fight the Germans. Polish people were encouraged to travel south where Polish Army was formed and orphanages were organised to cater for the orphans. Conditions were extremely primitive. Children, mostly orphans, were traumatised and every effort was taken to assist them in recovery. Principle method was to sublimate their suffering by teaching them they suffered for Poland and that soon, they will return to Poland to rebuild their homeland.
  3. Few months later, children were transferred to Iran where they stayed in Isfahan for 3 years. They lived in Homes and every effort was continued to be made to help them recover psychologically, physically and intellectually. The principal focus was to make children psychologically stronger, instilling patriotism and belief in return to a free Poland. All the costs of caring for children and paying personnel salaries were met by the Polish Government in London.

When time came for Polish children to depart from Persia to various countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations – New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, India and Canada – 733 children and 105 personnel were selected in response to the invitation from Mr. Peter Fraser, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The understanding that, at the end of WW2, all, the children and the adults, will return to a free Poland, was the dominating factor in deciding how the children were treated.

  1. While in the Pahiatua Camp, the children and the personnel continued to remain under the care and jurisdiction of the Polish-Government-in-Exile-in-London and a Delegate was appointed to remain the official contact between the Polish Community at the Camp and the Polish Government in Exile in London.
  2. All teaching was in Polish. The mottoes on school walls “Love God and Country” were in Polish. The language spoken at the Camp was exclusively Polish apart from a few lessons a week in English as a ‘foreign language’. Scouting organisation was conducted according to Polish values.
  3. In 1945, the YALTA conference took place. Poland did not regain freedom. The allies decided that Poland should remain part of the Communist block behind the Iron Curtain. Polish people in New Zealand could not return to a communist ruled homeland.

The Camp closed in 1948. New Zealand Government offered Polish people a permanent home, free education for the children without parents and full employment for all the Polish adults in New Zealand.

  1. Large number of Polish adults and children chose to move to Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, as well as Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Timaru. Polish House was purchased in Wellington and Auckland by the Polish people themselves to accommodate activities they considered important. Polish Saturday school was started for the little children and young Polish women were trained to be teachers at the school.

Polish Association was also established with a number of clubs under its ‘umbrella’ – the Lublin National Dance group and another group, by Mr. Babczyszyn. There was formed a very strong and active Returned Servicemen’s Association. There were also a club presenting lectures on Polish literature, a Video Club, a Bridge Club, a Seniors’ Club and a Polish Women’s Club.

This generation, the generation of the Polish Children has settled permanently therefore, in New Zealand. It could be said, however, that ’they had never let go of Poland’.

I believe that Polish’ness made us strong. It also gave us a very strong identity. We knew who we were and were, therefore, capable later to pour all we were capable of, into being worthy New Zealanders.

Overwhelming kindness of New Zealanders also gave children a strong sense of belonging.  

The question now arises how did the young Polish Children’s Polish’ness affect the First NZ Generation? Did the parents’ Polish’ness affect the First NZ Generation detrimentally?

Let us first look very briefly at the Polish Children’s lifestyles as they set up their homes and reared their children – the First NZ Generation. In most homes where both parents were Polish:

  1. language at home was Polish
  2. traditions – Christmas, Easter, Name Days, the food, were Polish
  3. weekends were spent most frequently, in the Polish House
  4. the Polish Children’s children, the First NZ Generation, attended Polish Saturday School, learning Polish national dances, Polish songs, poetry, plays, etc.
  5. the First NZ Generation’s awareness of their parents’ tragic past,
  6. the aura of ‘duty’ the First NZ Generation believed they had towards their parents because of their parents’ (Polish Children’s) suffering during the war.

Thus, the First NZ Generation’s lifestyle was considerably different from that of the children born to New Zealand parents.

Members of the First NZ Generation have become adults. A considerable number of those who live close to where larger Polish communities are, are involved.

They –

  1. form the membership of the Committee of the Polish Association,
  2. participate in Polish church services,
  3. teach Polish National dances,
  4. assist in celebrating Polish festive occasions,
  5. belong to a club called ‘How to be a Polish New Zealander?’
  6. many are interested in the future of the Polish House.

Comparatively little is known about the First NZ Generation’s success in the ‘outside’ – New Zealand world, however.

The following census has been an attempt to provide an insight into this very important aspect of life.


It was very much hoped that, expressing our interest in our children’s lives as a group, would be as pleasing for them, as learning more about their lives would be for us. It was more difficult to select the most appropriate method. One did not wish to seek information which could be considered too personal. One aspect of our children’s lives became instantly obvious however. What did the First Generation achieve for themselves? Obviously, it was the education they acquired which resulted in their working life and, as we all know well, one’s work determines the quality of one’s life.

646 envelopes were sent out to Polish Children asking parents 2 questions:

  1. How many children were in the family? 2. What type of occupation do the children have?

    It was also asked that, if parents were deceased, the child, or children (the member of the First NZ Generation) could answer the questions in their place and return the envelopes to the addressee. It was also known that some of the younger generation had left New Zealand for Australia, Poland, Britain, USA and Canada. Envelopes were also sent out to those wherever possible.                                                        

Responses, whether from Polish Children or from the First NZ Generation covered 763 members of the First NZ Generation, or approximately, 30 persons more than the number of the Polish Children who came to New Zealand originally in 1944.

Personal responses from the members of the First Generation (a few from Britain, Canada, USA, Australia) and New Zealand were very significant. Yes, even moving:    

  • Expressions of appreciation for having had been remembered as members of the Polish Community
  • Questions as to if, and how, could members of the First Generation assist in carrying out the census
  • Sharing a little information of how and when their parents died
  • Thanking for what was being done
  • Asking if they could be of assistance in this ‘monumental’ task
  • Assuring they will always be proud of being children of the Polish Children
  • Some have sent whole letters describing their lives.

Types of occupations have been classified into individual professions as follows:

I.T. – 11, Project Coordinator – 2, Business Analyst – 5, Customer Services – 4, Management – 3, Analyst Policy – 7, Banking – 2, Managing – 4, Marketing – 3, Ministerial Education – 2,  Banking – 2, Finance – 4, Programmer – 3, Software Development  – 5, Marketing – 3, Technician Telecom – 3, Programmers – 7, Designer – 1, Financial – 2, Technician telecom – 1, Communications – 1;


Landscape Gardener – 6, Horticulturalist – 3, Arborist – 2, Gardener – 3;


Architect – 6, Graphic Designer – 2, Draughtsmen – 1, Surveyor – 3;




Designer of costumes for films (Los Angeles) – 1, painter of murals at Lanark Castle – 1, Illustrator of books – 1, Artist Painter exhibiting his own work – 1, I.T. – 1, Artists – 5;


Flight engineers, RNZAF – 1, Aircraft engineer, RNZAF – 1, Aircraft technicians – 2, Civil engineers – 4, Air training cadets – 1, Radar technologist – 1, Helicopter flyers – 2, Balloon flyer – 2;



Advertising – 1, CAO – 1, Company director – 3, Contractor – 2, Director advocacy – 1, Human resource – 3, Manager – 16, Production planner – 3, Managerial – 9, Personnel manager – 7, Production planner – 3, Resort – 1, Restaurant manager – 1, Regional vineyard manager – 1, Services supervisor – 2, Tourism – 1;


Self-employed – 9, Butchers – 4, Cabinet makers – 2, Lodge owner – 1, Legal firms – 2, Joinery – 2, Real estate – 5, Transport – 3, B&B – 1, Car detailing – 1, Courier driving – 1, Clerical servicing – 1, Recruitment agencies – 3, Information analysing – 1, Entrepreneurship – 2 (restaurants), Computer consulting – 2, Property Developers – 2, Property management – 3, Dietitian – 1, Care givers – 2, Engineers – 2, Florist – 1, IT company – 1, Drivers – 5, Decorators – 3, Information analyst – 1, Taxi owners – 2, Gardener – 2;


Accounting – 1, Airline – 1, Airport – 1, Bank – 1, Office clerk – 33, Management – 4, Office support – 1, PO – 1, Telephonist – 2, Receptionist – 5;








U.N. Diplomat, ICAO in Montreal – 1, Business administration for European  Commission in Brussels – 1;


Driver – 6, Truck driver in a mine – 1, Fork lift – 1, Taxi – 2;


Teacher in Polytech – 1, Primary school – 28, Correspondence school – 2, Secondary school – 22, Kindergarten – 2, Martial arts – 1, Childcare education – 1, Music – 1, Modelling school (principal) – 1, Physical education – 1, Religion – 1, Radar air training cadets – 1, Telecommunication – 1, Librarian – 1, Head teacher – 1, Special needs – 1, Private school principal (Manchester) – 1, Principal of private school – 1, Yoga – 1, Beauty school – 1

Associate professor – 1, Professor Jagielloński University, Kraków, Poland – Art history – 1, Post-doctoral fellowship – 1, Massey University – 1, Associate professor – 1, Researcher – 1, Lecturer – 1;


Aeronautics – 1, Civil – 1, Diesel – 1, Stainless steel – 1, Electrical – 7, Telecommunications – 1, Geological – 1, Mechanical – 4, Security – 1, Sales – 1, General – 8;


Writer – 1, Editor – 1, Designer – 1;


Accountant – 37, Economist – 4, Programmers – 3, Development – 1, Business directors – 6, Software – 10, Marketing – 4;




Nurse – 43, Medical practitioner – 9, Pharmacist – 4, Mental health-nurse – 7, Dentist – 1, Occupational health consultant – 7, Plastic surgeon – 1, Radiographer – 1, Occupational health consultant – 1, Chemical technician – 1, Care giver – 2, Veterinary technician – 1, Medical laboratory scientist – 1, Neuromuscular massage therapist – 1, Psychologist – 2, Manager of Royal Marsden Hospital, London – 1, Massage therapist – 1, Public hospital property manager – 1;






Lawyer – 13, Own firm – 1, Liquidator – 1, Barrister, family law – 1, Director of advocacy – 1, Patent attorney – 1;


























Electricians – 12, Decorators – 3, Builders – 14, Plumbers – 7, Tiler – 1, Labourers – 4, Electronics – 4, Carpenters – 1, Mechanics – 9, Boat builders – 3, Cabinet makers – 1, Curtain hangers – 1, Hairdressers – 1, Car parts interpreter – 1, Butcher – 1, Welders – 1, Printers – 2, Decorators – 3, Meatpress – 1, Panelbeaters – 1, Fitters & turners – 1, Contractors – 5;







. When considering professions chosen by a young generation, it may be tempting to look at types of employment their parents had and expect the young to follow a similar pattern. In the case of Polish Children and the First NZ Generation, this would not at all apply. In their youth and their childhood, their parents experienced the devastation of WW2 in Poland, the trauma of losing families in the Soviet Union, attaining adulthood without their family in New Zealand, in an environment where people were kind and accepting but the environment was totally different from the one they were expecting for a number of years, which was a return to Poland, their homeland.   

The success of the First NZ Generation, which was obviously nurtured by their parents, the Polish Children,  was of great advantage in setting the FIRST NZ Generation free of any burdens of the past and Polish Children welcomed the many opportunities offered to their children in this country.

  1. Wide range and apparently an unimpaired choice of professions selected and practised by members of the First NZ Generation also indicates the unquestionable freedom of choice in New Zealand society where an individual’s decision concerning choice of future is guided by own skills, interests and opportunities rather than prejudice and bias.
  2. It can be also summarised from the table that most attractive professions which attract the greatest number of practitioners, are those which are traditional in every western society –
  3. education – with 2 principals of 2 private schools, 2 associate professors, a post-doctoral fellow, and a researcher,
  4. health – with 9 medical practitioner, 4 pharmacists, a dentist, a plastic surgeon, a medical laboratory scientist, 2 psychologists, a manager of the Royal Marsden Hospital, London,
  5. trades – most numerous among whom are – electricians, decorators, builders, plumbers, and mechanics.
  6. It is interesting to note that the group of ‘Business Owners’ – 64, form a comparatively similarly sized group to the group of those who are ‘Involved in Business’ – 55. Involvement in both, can be interpreted as indicating an attitude of initiative and preparedness to take risk. This could seem unusual for those whose parents had comparatively limited experience in this area.
  7. Finally, I would like to add not the most numerous list of professions but those which appear most exotic and unique and of which we have only one practitioner in each group, which answered the questionnaire. These include a truck driver in the mine, a yoga teacher, a balloon flyer, an ornithologist, an artist painter, a flight and an aircraft engineer for the RNZAF, a regional vineyard manager, an entrepreneur in restaurants, army, designer of costumes for films in L.A., information analyst, plastic surgeon, boat builder.

It is obvious that the First NZ Generation have done well in every field they had chosen to spend their lives pursuing. It is also obvious that they feel connected to their Polish heritage and appreciate being reminded of it.

Following the example of their parents it can also be safely assumed that recognition of those achievements would not only please them, but also strengthen the feeling of connection with their Polish heritage. The first project – to obtain information about the professional achievement of the First NZ Generation has been finalised.

Information has been obtained. Now what should, perhaps, take place is an official recognition of our children’s achievement in a celebratory manner. There are many ways in which human beings can express admiration for and appreciation of each other.