Pahiatua Picnic Day

Date: Sunday 29 October, from 2pm

Place: Dom Polski, 1 McDonald Street, Morningside

Polish children arriving in Wellington in 1944. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library.

Please mark this date on your calendars. It is one where we invite our Pahiatua seniors as special guests to commemorate their first sighting of Wellington on 31 October 1944.

Our Pahiatua seniors are better known as the Pahiatua children, because 733 of them, many orphans, arrived on the USS General Randall with their 105 caregivers. The “Pahiatua” attached to them is the Wairarapa town that hosted the Pahiatua Polish Children’s Camp from 1944 to 1949, when the last children left.

In 1943, a ship carrying Polish children bound for Mexico happened to be in the Wellington harbour, its Polish passengers having been given temporary refuge to live out the balance of the war there. Our then Prime Minister Peter Fraser, heard about it and the Polish children who had escaped the USSR in 1942, and who still lived in orphanages in Isfahan, in what was then Persia (now Iran), and backed the plan to extend the same kind of welcome on behalf of New Zealand.

Once it became clear that post-war Poland was not the free country that the Poles had fought for, the New Zealand government extended the invitation to allow children and caregivers who wanted to stay, or were able to stay, to do so—and extended that invitation to include the children’s military parents and siblings who did not wish to return to communist-controlled Poland.

So it’s an especially poignant day for the remaining Pahiatua children, and their descendants. We hope you will join us in making it memorable.

More details to come.