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Centenary of Polish independence

Christchurch landmarks set to light up on the centenary of Polish independence

During the upcoming weekend, the Polish community in Christchurch will mark one hundred years of Poland’s regained independence which falls on 11 November.

One hundred white and red balloons will be released by the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, Polish Honorary Consul South Island, members of the Polish Association in Christchurch and invited guests during the official commemoration of the centenary this Friday evening (9th).

The following night, two Christchurch landmarks, New Brighton Pier and Gateway Arches Bridge, will be lit up in Poland’s national colours of white and red as part of Poland’s Ministry of Culture and National Heritage initiative to mark the centenary with illumination of architectural objects and significant landmarks around the world.

Not only is Christchurch one the first places in the world to see the dawn of Polish Independence Day, it will be the farthest city from Poland where the centenary will be marked in this way.

The celebrations will conclude on Sunday with a gathering of the Polish community to enjoy an afternoon recital by a visiting artist from Poland.

Editor’s note:

100 red and white balloons will be released by the Ambassador, the Honorary Consul and invited guests from the balcony of the RSA Poppy Club, 74 Armagh Street at approx. 7.00 – 7.15 p.m. on Friday, 9th November.

New Brighton Pier and Gateway Arches Bridge (Russley Road and Memorial Avenue intersection) will be illuminated in Poland’s national colours (white and red) between approx. 8.00 p.m. on Saturday 10th November and 6 a.m. on Sunday 11th November.

In 1795, Poland found herself divided among Austria, Prussia, and Russia, and deprived of independent statehood. For the next 123 years it was absent from European political maps. 11 November is celebrated in Poland as Independence Day to commemorate the recovery of a sovereign state. On that date in 1918, Marshal Józef Piłsudski assumed control of Poland and was entrusted with creating a national government for the restored Polish State.

While under foreign control, Poles were subject to a series of measures aimed against them, against their language and their culture, which were replaced by incremental enforcement of the language and culture of the controlling states. The loss of independence led to a large wave of emigration from Poland in search of freedom and a better life. New Zealand was among the countries which welcomed Poles to their shores.

A small number of Polish Jews started arriving in Canterbury in the 1850s and 60s, followed by a larger group of migrants from the Prussian zone arriving from 1872 onwards. Today, the Polish community in Christchurch includes the descendants of these early settlers, as well as later arrivals, including New Zealand’s first refugees - wartime Pahiatua Children, those who followed during the Cold War, as well as the more recent influx of skilled migrants.


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