Narrator Maria – Delegate from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Polish Govt in Exile
The 1,500 refugees here in Mexico were originally intended for Africa. This via temporary camps in Iran and then two months in Karachi, India, during which time Mexico volunteered to open its doors to Polish refugees.
From Bombay the American ship “Hermitage”, in two shipments, took the refugees to Mexico via Bombay, Australia, New Zealand, Bora Bora and the San Pedro Port in the US.
During 1943 the two transports of Polish refugees arrived at Colonia Santa Rosa in Leon Guanajuato, an abandoned hacienda.
Colonia Santa Rosa has been formed due to the combined efforts of four governments: America, Mexico, Great Britain and the Polish Government in Exile in London. The material needs of this group, as far as food and clothing are concerned, are being supplied by the Polish Government, The US Government, Catholic Relief Services, Polish Communities in the US and a host of other generous organizations worldwide. Slowly the hopes of the refugees and their faith in God and Humanity are being rebuilt.
However, the settlement is sorely in need of educational and recreational services. A welfare center for these purposes, as well as activities for youth, has been established at the Colony. Miss Renetta Rakoski, representing the Catholic Relief Services, has accepted the position of supervisor. The Polish Falician Nuns from Chicago have come to the Colonia Santa Rosa to educate the children. Their dedication and spiritual guidance is invaluable to the whole community.
It is heartening to see how the Polish refugees are adapting to life in Mexcio. One of them told me,
“Sometimes, in the darkest moments in one’s life, a little sunshine enters and warms your entire being. Such was the case when we arrived in Mexico. We were greeted with music, flowers and the open, loving arms and hearts of the Mexican people. They shared their love – knowing little of the horrors we have just escaped. Tears flowed and we could not contain the joy we felt. At last we were in the arms of friends – friends that we had never met, didn’t understand their language, had little in common historically but we understood that we would be safe here until the war ends.”
Colonia Santa Rosa Mexico is the story of broken people slowly being born again. The refugees are slowly trusting strangers, not only in Mexico, but so many offering help with prayers, donations of food supplies, clothing, medicine and finances from around the world – mostly from America.
The Hacienda which we call Colonia Santa Rosa was not up to any standard that could support 1,500 refugees. With shattered sprits, minds and bodies this ragtag Polish community is rolling up their sleeves and focusing on a new beginning…
They are rebuilding the entire Hacienda, completely rebuilding the swimming pool, dividing buildings for dormitories, constructing new buildings for living quarters and additional classrooms, building a hospital, offices, play grounds and gardens to supplement our food supplies.
The Polish refugees here are beginning to laugh and to enjoy life again to some degree.
In 1945, at the end of the war, the Polish-Mexican agreement ends and we must disburse the camp refugees. Their choices at this time are to return to Poland, live and work in Mexico, or find a sponsor in order to go to the United States or other countries.
Of approximately 1,500 refugees who were transferred from India to the Colonia Santa Rosa in Mexico, only a small group will remain. Most of the children are given the opportunity to go to the United States. Canada has been particularly interested in the refugees in Mexico and have provided work contracts for a number of them.
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The 1,500 refugees in Mexico were in temporary camps, bound for Africa, when Mexico volunteered to have Polish refugees. From Bombay the American ship “Hermitage”, in two shipments, took the refugees to…