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Polish orphans thank New Zealand for 60 years

Polish orphans thank New Zealand for 60 years of sanctuary

The 60th anniversary of the arrival of the Pahiatua children will be celebrated over Labour weekend, with Mayor of Wellington Kerry Prendergast unveiling a commemorative plaque on the 25th of October at the Frank Kitts Park in Lambton Quay.

On 31 October 1944, 733 children, mostly Polish orphans and half orphans arrived in Wellington Harbour.

The group was accompanied by 105 adults and on 1st November were sent to Pahiatua, where a camp was established to give the children a temporary ‘Little Poland’ until they could return to their homeland after the war.

However it soon became clear that New Zealand was to be the children’s permanent home – when in 1947 and again in 1948 the Warsaw regime demanded that the children be returned to Poland, the New Zealand Government refused.

Eventually the Internationally recognised seat of the Polish Government in London and the New Zealand Government formed Guardianship Council for the Polish children who lived here.

The plaque as part of celebration of the children’s 60 years in New Zealand has been instigated by the Honorary Polish Consul for New Zealand, Jan Wojciechowski (now Jon Roy-Wojciechoski).

John Roy was 6 years old in 1940 when the Russians came knocking at the door of his home in Poland - they murdered his father and sent him, his mother, three sisters and one brother to a labour camp in the Arctic.

Millions of Poles died from cold, disease and starvation in the labour camps – but miraculously the Wojciechowski children and others survived – over 700 of them eventually invited to live at Pahiatua.

“This plaque will ensure that there is a permanent record of the gratitude to the people of New Zealand, to the Catholic Church and others who helped us during our difficult period,” says Mr Roy.

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