Who are we?

The Second World War devastated Europe and set up great tidal movements of millions of refugee; among them were Poles who had been forcibly deported to the German Reich and Russia’s Soviet union. An uprooted and displaced generation of Poles were forced to find other countries to take them in. Three distinct waves of this movement reached New Zealand: the ‘Polish Children’, the ex-Servicemen, and the Displaced Persons. (p11)

The ‘Polish Children’

Having settled at the camp, exploration of the surroundings begins. Four Polish children meet two little New Zealanders sitting on the fence. Standing in front of fence (l-r): Kazimierz Markowski, Zbigniew Markowski, Lech Wierzbicki, Józef Sokalski. Disk 34445 - Reference No.: F-3659-1/2 Photographer: John Dobree Pascoe from the John Pascoe Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, N.Z. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library must be obtained before any reuse of this image.We are a group of children (734) – most of us were orphans or had only one living parent – and adults (105) invited to New Zealand by Prime Minister, Peter Fraser in 1943. We arrived in Wellington on 1 November 1944 on the Generall Randall an American troopship bringing New Zealand soldiers home on leave. We were taken to a camp at Pahiatua which had been specially set up for us. The Polish Children’s Camp, Pahiatua was our home for the next five years. For many of us those were the happiest years of our lives. At the end of the war we expected to return to Poland. But Poland was now part of a Soviet world; we were given the opportunity to make New Zealand our home. (p12)

 

 

The Ex-Servicemen

Julian Wypych with his older brother Jan in the Junior Soliders, Nazareth 1943. Source: Józef Zawada.We are a group (200) of mostly fathers and relatives of the children in Pahiatua camp who found ourselves fighting alongside the western Allies during the war. Some of us were part of a Polish army, formed in the Soviet Union after Germany attacked Russia, which was evacuated to the Middle East in 1942. Others of us managed to escape after Poland was invaded by the Wehrmacht and the Red Army, in September 1939. Rather than return to a country dominated by our enemy, we chose to fight for Polish independence in exile. (p13)

 

 

 

The Displaced Person

We are a group of Poles (744) who found ourselves in Germany** at the end of the war. We spent the war in concentration camps, prisoner-of-war (POW) camps and forced labour camps. Many of us waited in Germany after the war hoping that we could return to an independent Poland. Finally we too had to accept exile in a foreign country. New Zealand belonged to the International Refugee Organisation which settled Displaced Persons (DPs). Between 1949 and 1951, 4500 DPs of many nationalities came to New Zealand on the Dundalk Bay, Hellenic Prince, and Goya. As New Settlers, we were obliged to work for the government for several years to discharge our debts. (p14)

Editors notes 1 and 2
1 Displaced Persons found themselves in various European countries including Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia and France.
2 Minor changes have been made to the text to clarify meanings. All changes have been agreed by Dr. Theresa Sawicka.

Petone Settler’s Museum; Living in Two Worlds, The Polish Community of Wellington; p11, 12, 13, 14