My grandparents, Stanisław and Krystyna Skwarko, were among the caregivers who arrived in New Zealand in November 1944, to look after the 733 Polish children who were invited by the Fraser government to see out the rest of WW2 in New Zealand. They came with my mother, Krystyna, and uncle Stanisław.
The Soviets arrested my grandfather, a lawyer, in 1940, and deported him to a mine in in May 1941. They came for my grandmother, mother, and uncle in June 1941, and took them to a kolkhoz near Uzhur in Siberia. After Hitler invaded Russia, and Stalin gave an ‘amnesty’ to the Poles in the USSR, in 1942 the Polish army helped them and thousands of others escape, and gain temporary refuge in then Persia, now Iran.
My father, Czesław Tomaszyk, was born in western Poland. After the war, he had the chance to study in France. He arrived in New Zealand in 1950, with other European refugees that the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) brought over with the Hellenic Prince for resettlement.
Apart from some years overseas, I have lived mostly in Auckland. I married Darryl White, and we have two children: Ariana, who has lived in Hong Kong for three years, and Ethan, who lives in Wellington.
Currently, I run the Kate Edger Trust, a non-profit that empowers through education, and that is mostly funded through the hiring and selling of graduation and legal attire through the social enterprise, Academic Dress Hire. I also run a small recruitment business. In the past, I was in the corporate finance world and have been involved with the Neurological Foundation and the Starship Foundation.
I do speak Polish, but I’m rusty and very accented, something I hope to improve through my involvement at the APA and, more imminently, a trip to Poland in June. As a proud Polish Kiwi, I hope I can bring to the role of APA president my knowledge, my experience, and my love of Poland.
I am really excited about this opportunity. It seems the right thing to do, and I look forward to working for the Polish community in Auckland.
I visited the Dom Polski precisely one week after we arrived in New Zealand. We had met other Polish “roadies” who introduced us to the great atmosphere, and that encouraged us to become members and join the Polish community in Auckland. One day, I was asked to help in the kitchen and since then I have been volunteering to help sell pierogi. Maybe some of you saw my face?
I was born in Tomaszów Lubelski but most of my life, I lived in Silesia, the south region of Poland, where my husband, Jakub, comes from, and where we met. Our children, Ewa and Antoni, were born in Bytom. Before coming to New Zealand, we lived in Poznan, Bytom, and eventually Kigali, Rwanda. Auckland became our home in March 2022 when we arrived to find a well-balanced society. In July 2022, we helped our dog Cassi, who joined our family in Rwanda, to immigrate.
I graduated with a physiotherapy diploma from the Medical University of Silesia in 2009. Since then, I have been specialising as a paediatric specialist. I have worked at the Auckland City Hospital since October 2022.
In New Zealand, we appreciate the blue sky and the green surrounding the city. We all bike every day to work and to school. In Ponsonby, I found a great yoga place where I go whenever I can. I love to learn new things, especially about culture and customs. If I have a spare moment, I read and write a blog. As a family, we love to play board games, go camping, and join Cassi, who loves running on beaches. We are hoping to learn to surf and kite.
I am thrilled to be a part of the Auckland Polish Association and bring my Polish roots, knowledge, and heritage to this special place. I believe everyone who visits the Dom Polski including my children, will benefit from my input.
I am a chartered accountant in public practice.
My father, Tadeusz Mazur, was born in 1929 in Rzeszowice, a village then in eastern Poland about 90 kilometres north-east of Lwów. At 5am on 10 February 1940, my father and his family were deported by the Russians to Kotlas, 2,200 kilometres away in northern Russia, then to Sorokanda, a forced-labour facility.
His parents died in Sorokanda. After Russia became an ally in July 1941, and the release of the Poles in the USSR was negotiated, he made an incredible journey back through Kotlas, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, to Isfahan in Iran. Three of his siblings died or went missing during the trip, a brother and sister are buried in the Catholic part of the Isfahan cemetery, and at the time he left Isfahan in 1944, he had one surviving brother, Bronek, in the Polish Army.
My father arrived in Wellington on 1 November 1944 and became one of the 733 “Pahiatua children.” The New Zealand government invited them and their caregivers to stay, pending the liberation of Poland. That did not happen, and he remained here.
After leaving Pahiatua, my father was taken in by the Harrop family in Mt Albert. They treated him as a son. Reginald Harrop was a public accountant and encouraged my father to become one too, which he did. He settled in Auckland, and married a New Zealander, Frances, in 1961. I’m one of their four children.
My father kept in close contact with a wide circle of the Pahiatua children. There were at least half a dozen families of the Pahiatua children in our South Auckland neighbourhood and contact with them was the extent of my association with the Polish community.
Even though my father was the president of the Auckland Polish Association in the 1960s, I had only sporadic contact. We went to some events at the Polish House (where I became fond of Polish food) and sometimes we’d go to Polish Mass at Sacred Heart College. Our exposure to that environment was limited as only one parent was Polish and only my father spoke Polish.
As I have grown older, my interest in my Polish background has grown, which is why I joined the APA a few years ago. I am looking forward to finding new ways to connect with my Polishness.
My parents, Mietek and Ola (née Szulgan) Lis, were Polish Pahiatua children. I grew up in a very Polish home in Wellington with my brother, Stefan, and two sisters, Halinka and Basia. We observed Polish traditions, made and ate the food, spoke the language, and followed whatever was happening in Poland.
I attended Polish school each Saturday afternoon at the Newtown Dom Polski. My mother taught at the school, and I have many great memories from those early days. We joined the Polish Youth Group and protested for Solidarność, organised get-togethers, and arranged sports trips to meet the Auckland Polish youth group. I danced with the Wellington Polish dance group for many of years and even played volleyball for a Polish team in Wellington.
I have travelled to Poland on a number of occasions, the first time in the early 1980s.
I am married to Wanda, whose parents, Jan and Irena (née Iwan) Pąk, were also Polish Pahiatua children. We have three daughters, Zosia, Ella, and Nina. For the past 35 years, I have worked as an accountant overseas and in New Zealand. I am the accountant at Rosmini College in Takapuna, and I enjoy going to the gym and playing soccer.
After being part of the very successful 75th Auckland Polish Reunion Committee in 2019, I joined the APA executive to give something back to the community that has been such a big part of my life.
I am the fourth child and only daughter of Joanna and Tadeusz Kalinowski.
In 1940, both sides of my family were taken from their homes in eastern Poland to Siberia. My parents eventually met in England where they married and started a family. They had followed different paths to get there. Dad was in the army and fought at the battle of Monte Casino while mum ended up in a Ugandan refugee camp. My parents and my two eldest brothers then moved to South Africa for dad’s work as a textile chemist in the fabric industry. Another brother and I were born there. We immigrated to New Zealand in the 1970s when I was seven years old.
I have spent most of my life in Auckland but have lived overseas, too. I studied at Auckland University where I met and then later married Andrew, a multi-generational New Zealander. I liked studying. I have a BA in Psychology, a Bachelor of Town Planning, a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Primary) and have just completed a Graduate Diploma in Teaching English in Schools to Speakers of Other Languages (TESSOL). I worked as a Town Planner for a number of years at both local and regional government levels then retrained as a primary school teacher when my two sons, Łukasz and Kazik, were young. They are now in their late teens.
I currently run and deliver the ESOL programme at Edendale Primary School in Sandringham. I enjoy learning Polish and about Poland, baking, reading, spending time with my family and friends, and doing pilates.
I am married and live with my husband in Glen Eden Auckland. I have a degree in education, and I currently teach at a preschool.
I have also worked at the Polish Heritage Trust Museum in Howick, Auckland, which gave me an even greater understanding of the Pahiatua story and, of course, Poland itself.
I have been involved with the Polish association for six years. My nana, Anna née Zazulak Aitken and her family are part of the Pahiatua story, which is how I became involved in the Polish association.
My interests are being a diehard supporter of the Warriors (National Rugby League) and working alongside the union movement.
I am up to the challenge of working on the executive and look forward to meeting awesome people along the way.
Membership Secretary, Website
In 2007, my mother sent me the poem Red Night by Tolek Sobierajski. On top of the several A4 pages, she wrote in capital letters: “This is my story too, 10 Feb 1940, Lwów.” It was the first time she shared her lost childhood with me. The poem lay on our coffee table for weeks before I got the courage to finish reading it.
I was born in England of Polish refugee parents, one of those children who started school knowing no English. I grew up over-hearing the words “cattle trucks” and being told that our family’s records had been “destroyed.” I learnt not to question.
Our family emigrated to South Africa when I was 11. Without the Saturday Polish school that kept me grounded to my language and my culture, I lost touch with my two adored babcie and, eventually, my Polish roots. My husband, Steven, and I emigrated here in 1998 with our own two then-teenaged children, and I was content with my life—until that poem. I found my maternal grandfather’s grave, one of 19 Polish soldiers at the Canadian War cemetery in Leubringen, northern France. My paternal grandfather was 47 when he survived Monte Cassino—but he died in Italy two years later.
My research into their lives was curtailed when I became involved with interviewing and telling the stories of Polish WW2 survivors in New Zealand, including those of the forced-labour facilities in northern Russia and Siberia, the same places that imprisoned my parents and their families. This soon extended to meeting descendants of the first Polish immigrants to New Zealand in the 1800s, and recording their families’ stories. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to meet people with all sorts of Polish connections. They have all helped me rebuild the solid Polish foundation I lost when I left England, and I treasure the fact that despite coming here from many places, and through many routes, sometimes it is enough that the only thing we have in common is our Polishness.
When I’m not working on my website, Polish History New Zealand, or trying to come to grips with Polish grammar, or running around with our two grandsons, I love to potter in my garden, which I planted completely in native trees and shrubs. I was inspired through my introduction to Long Bay Regional Park, where I volunteered for more than 20 years. These days, I work at a tiny reserve closer to home, but one that needs as much protection as any other.
Science teacher Anna Biegańska’s New Zealand adventure started when her husband Piotr’s job needed him on a project in Auckland.
They arrived in Auckland in November 2021 with their14-year-old son, Szymon, when the city was still in Covid19 lockdown, and spent a disconcerting first week in a Christchurch MIQ facility. Its restrictions and patrolling soldiers behind them, they settled in Takapuna, where Anna appreciates the proximity of the sea, and being able to revive her joy in Nordic walking on the local beaches.
Anna was born in Maków Podhalański in southern Poland, and attended the same high school in Wadowice as the late Pope John Paul II. She graduated with a Master of Science (Chemistry) degree from the Jagellonian University in Kraków, and went on to postgraduate studies in physics from the city’s University of Science and Technology.
She met her husband, Piotr Biegański, from Mielec, while they were both studying in Kraków in 2001. They married in August 2006.
Anna taught science to intermediate (gimnazjum) pupils in Kraków for 20 years. Although she misses the interaction with her pupils—especially science experiments and workshops—she has set herself a target to become fluent in English while she is here. Being in a family where Polish is the first language, she is looking forward to being forced to face the challenge of communicating in English with other members of the APA committee. “I now have some free time. I want to use it to support the Dom Polski. First, I need to get my New Zealand driver’s licence!”
Communications, Social Media
I come from the southernmost region of Poland – the Beskid Mountains. My maternal family descends from the Polish Highlanders, while my paternal ancestry links to the Silesian region.
In 2019 my husband and I moved to New Zealand, tempted by barefoot walks and the overall Kiwi dream. Shortly after arrival, I got involved in the activities of Dom Polski. I co-hosted the Halo Tu Polska programme on Planet FM radio, and taught Polish to a number of skillful students. Since 2021, I have been gladly serving on the APA executive board.
Professionally, I am a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Auckland, investigating socio-economic transition pathways through ongoing volcanic disruption at Mt. Taranaki using a System Dynamics approach.
Urodzony w Żywcu (1990); absolwent Szkoły Filmowej im. Krzysztofa Kieślowskiego w Katowicach. W Nowej Zelandii mieszka na stałe od 2019 roku.
Pomimo wyjazdu z Polski, stale z nią związany, zarówno prywatnie jak i zawodowo (doświadczenie zawodowe w Ambasadzie RP w Sztokholmie, Polskiej Organizacji Turystycznej w Sztokholmie).
Znawca tematyki Bliskiego Wschodu (studia na Wydziale Studiów Międzynarodowych i Politycznych Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego) oraz miłośnik sportu i piłki nożnej (studia na Akademii Wychowania Fizycznego w Krakowie).
Dawid pracuje w Auckland jako montażysta wideo, gdzie wykorzystuje swej umiejętności twórcze i techniczne.
Dawid was born in Żywiec in 1990, and graduated from Kieslowski Film School in Katowice. He has been living permanently in New Zealand since 2019.
Despite leaving Poland, he remains connected to the country of his birth both privately and professionally. His professional experience includes working at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Stockholm, and at the Polish Tourist Organization in Stockholm.
Dawid completed Middle East studies at at the Faculty of International and Political Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. He loves sports, and football, which led to studies at the University of Physical Education in Kraków.
He now works in Auckland as a video editor where he appreciates being able to meld his creative and his technical skills.