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Polish children in Pahiatua – 70th anniversary

1 November 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of 733 Polish children and 105 Polish adults in Pahiatua, Tararua District. A ‘Polish Week’ is being held from 27th of October to 3rd of November with Pahiatua’s Main Street decorated in a Polish theme to welcome the visiting Polish children and their descendants. On 30th October, the ‘Polish Children’ will be welcomed back to Pahiatua by Mayor Roly Ellis at the Town Hall, and tours will be offered, including to the Polish Memorial just south of Pahiatua. Pahiatua residents are asked to join in lining the streets of the town to welcome them back again.  For more information on Polish Week, please contact the Pahiatua Information Centre 06 376 6619.

So why were the Polish children and adults forced to leave their homeland and travel the enormous distance of 17,730 kilometres to New Zealand? After the outbreak of World War II in 1939 when the German army invaded Poland, their allies the Soviets entered Eastern Poland on September 27 and so began the mass deportation of Polish citizens to the USSR.

Kindergarten group at a Polish refugee camp, Pahiatua, 7 February 1945.

Kindergarten group at a Polish refugee camp, Pahiatua, 7 February 1945.

By 1940, cracks were starting to appear in the German-Russian alliance, sparked by disagreements over the division of land captured as spoils of war; as well as conflict over the terms of the USSR’s entry to the Axis Pact. Germany launched Operation Barbarossa and invaded the USSR on 22 June 1941. By this time, more than one and a half million Polish citizens had been deported to Russia. Because of the German attack, Poles who were to be deported to the USSR were granted amnesty, as Poland, USSR, UK, and other allies were now fighting a common enemy. 72,000 Polish soldiers and 44,000 civilians were evacuated to Iran, but when the soldiers left Iran to fight in North Africa and Italy, the civilians were stranded. A call for international help resulted in the New Zealand government inviting a group of orphaned Polish children to New Zealand.On 27 September 1944, 733 children and 105 adults departed Isfahan for Ahwaz in southwest Iran. From here, they crossed to Iraq and boarded a British merchant ship and sailed the length of the Persian Gulf, then crossed the Arabian Sea to Bombay in India, where they boarded an American troopship that was taking 3,000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers home. After only one stop at Melbourne, the ship sailed into Wellington Harbour on 31 October 1944.

The Polish refugees travelled by two special trains to Pahiatua Station where thirty-three army trucks transported them to what originally was the Pahiatua Racecourse, but had been converted into the ‘Polish Children’s Camp’. Owing to the decimation of their country, the Polish Government could only offer limited financial assistance, so the New Zealand Government financed the camp, and it was administered by the Ministry of Defence and run by the army.The children were encouraged to assist with cleaning the campgrounds and classrooms; washing dishes; and working in the gardens. All teaching was done in the Polish language, all the street names were in Polish as it was intended that the children would return to Poland.

To help the children become acquainted with New Zealand life they and the adults were invited to spend two weeks holiday with New Zealand families. As the children finished the equivalent of Standard 6 in Polish schools, they were sent on to further education or to learn trades. In February 1945, the first group of girls left the camp to go to New Zealand schools. Later another group went to Convent Schools. The last group left on 15 April 1949. When the last Polish Children left, the camp was converted to accommodate ‘Displaced Persons’ who had migrated from camps in Germany.

Despite every care taken to keep the Polish people close to their culture in the expectation of repatriation, the Russians insisted on installing a pro-Russian Communist government in Poland and retained the territories occupied in 1939. Britain and the United States agreed to this at Yalta Conference in 1945 and because most of the children and personnel of the Polish Children’s Camp were from Eastern Poland, they could not return home. Tragically, they became stateless people because of these boundary changes. On a happier note, the Polish refugees became naturalised citizens of New Zealand in 1949.
The former children of the Polish Children’s Camp felt that they could not allow the only tangible reminder of their happy years at the Camp to disappear. Therefore, the Polish Children’s Memorial Committee was convened in order to build a monument and establish a rest area. The Monument, a white marble monolith, was unveiled on 22 February 1975.

This article compiled by Tam Jones from information sourced from J Zawada of the Polish Children’s Jubilee Committee, kindly supplied by Wyn Davidson.

Tararua District Library holds books related to the Polish refugees:

  •  ‘The Invited: the story of 733 Polish children who grew up in New Zealand’ by Krstyna Skwarko
  •  ‘New Zealand’s First Refugees: Pahiatua’s Polish Children’ by the Polish Children’s Reunion Committee
  •  ‘A Strange Outcome – the Remarkable Survival Story of a Polish Child’ by John Roy-Wojciechowski
  •  ‘Essence’ by Krystine Tomasyk
  •  ‘A new tomorrow: the story of a Polish-Kiwi family’ by Witold (Vic) Domanski


For more information online about the Polish refugees, click on the links below: (short film)–2009110117  (65th anniversary)

Above: Published on Mar 28, 2012 New Zealand National Film Unit presents Story of 700 Polish Children (1966)






Can you recognize any relatives meeting the Queen?

Queen Elizabeth II visit to Dannevirke 1954

On 7 January 1954, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip briefly visited Dannevirke.  The royal train arrives at time marker 3:56.

It’s a fascinating view into Dannevirke and Royalty of times past. Can you identify any relatives? Please comment if you do – we’d love to know!

Film taken by Maurice France. Purchased by the Dannevirke Borough Council in 1955 to serve as a record of the Queen’s visit, which was part of the Royal Tour of NZ.  The film is now stored at Archives Central on behalf of Tararua District Council.


Norsewood – world famous in Tararua District!

There have been several books written about local towns (as below) and now we have another excellent volume which was launched this week – “Norsewood: a special settlement” by Diane and Terry Kitt is a 517 page volume full of very interesting information (see more).

norsewoodBoth authors have Scandinavian roots. Diane is a Norsewood local and descendant of the first settlers of Norwegian and Moravian origin. Terry identifies with Scandinavians from Normandy settlement. They lived away from the area for a while, but moved back to Norsewood in 1991 operating an antique and collectible business, and being involved in local affairs. Currently living in Dannevirke, they chose to research and compile this as a lasting tribute to “Norsewood, the village that refused to die” — provided by publisher.

A sample of books about Tararua that we have in our collection:

  •  “Dannevirke: the early years” by Rob McDonald
  • “This is Woodville : a chronicle of 81 town sections auctioned at Napier 16 January 1875, a business history” by Joan McIntyre
  • “A goodly heritage : Eketahuna and districts 100 years, 1873 – 1973″ by Irene Adcock
  • “Tui country : a history of the Pahiatua County” by Angus McCallum

“Norsewood: a special settlement” is available to borrow from Tararua District Library now.  The Kitts have kindly donated rights and profits from the book to Norsewood Promotions, and copies of the book can be purchased from Paper Plus Dannevirke and all main shops in Norsewood – including the Scandi Superette, Norsewood Café, Norsewear. That said, rumour has it that the first print run is sold out already!

How not to kill your kids before they turn 18!

How’s that for a title to grab your attention!  “How NOT to kill your kids before they turn 18″ by Tonya E. Joyner is only 125 pages whick makes it a quick easy read- it only took about an hour with a few breaks in between to allow for parenting of course.

how not to kill kidsIt is for anyone and everyone who is interested in making it through parenthood, or who have made it through but may need to revise what went on within the family. It describes surreal situations and things experienced daily for parents or caregivers. Things that will make you nod your head in agreement and smile every now and again as you can imagine yourself or your children doing the things described.

It has great guidelines to follow,  and the concepts for running smoother, healthier, family relationships are quick and simple so therefore easy to remember. It covers everything:

  • parenting basics
  • having organisation within the family, “keeping it together”
  • putting systems in place for the family
  • communication and disagreements
  • chores children are capable of and for what ages
  • tips on other topics pre-teens and teenagers.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting to upskill, or increase their knowledge of parenting.

- Danielle



Best fiction book in the world 2014!

road narrow northThe Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014 has been awarded to “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Australian author Richard Flanagan.  Must be something about the Southern Hemisphere, as of course, our own Eleanor Catlin won for ‘The Luminiaries’ last year!   Reserve here

‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ is about Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle’s wife. The story journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

It’s about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.  (Provided by publisher)

The judges described The Narrow Road to the Deep North as a book that “kicks you so hard in the stomach” it takes the breath away.   It took Flanagan 12 years and five drafts to complete, but at least he is now rewarded with prestige as well as £50,000, and no doubt, many more book sales now.


Read an excerpt

Maths is Fun photos – Dannevirke Library

Dannevirke Library ran our first Maths is Fun programme this week, thanks to Wairarapa REAP, and it was a resounding success.  We had 50 places available and they were snapped up quickly, and all the children seemed to really enjoy it.  We hope to offer this programme at all our library branches every October school holidays in future.

A big thank you to wonderful teachers Eileen Thomson and Teresa Mason.

Photo Caley McNair October 2014

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Call the vet!

Anna Birch

Anna Birch

“Call the vet” by Anna Birch is a memoir telling the story of a British woman’s first year as a qualified veterinarian.  Starting her training a bit later in life – because she didn’t really know what she wanted to do – her first professional job is with a rural mixed practice in Dorset owned by two experienced vets.  Initially, she is frustrated that they restrict her to small animal duties, however, as her first cat spay takes 90 minutes (normally about 30), and she nearly kills a pet hamster when it gets sucked up the anaesthetic machine tubing, she realises that the transition from theory to practice might be harder than she thought.

Eventually, she is allowed to start making farm visits, and despite a few rocky patches and difficult cases, she is soon in her element. Even more so when she meets a handsome young Reserve Warden.  But then a friend invites her to Africa for a few weeks, to assist in a feral dog rabies vaccination programme.  Her new boyfriend is less than pleased at the prospect, and when she returns, he announces he’s moving to a new job 90 minutes away.  Has Anna lost him?  After her adventure, will she be happy working on farms again?

As someone who actually worked in vet clinics for many years, this book accurately portrayed that lifestyle and animal health cases (some quite funny, some sad). It was also a lovely romantic tale.

- Natalie

Made space on your shelves yet?

Tararua District Library Book Sale October 2014 jpegTo make space for lovely new books, we’re getting rid of some stock.  A lot of adult fiction this time, and some unwanted donated items are practically new (good for Christmas presents!)

When:  1st to 31st October 2014

Where: Dannevirke Library, 9.30am to 5.30pm weekdays; 10am-1pm Saturdays.

Prices: Everything 50c or less.  Eftpos or cash. No credit cards.


The life of a pyschic…

Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel is a story in which not a lot happens but which gives you an insight into the mind and world of a psychic. Hilary Mantel doesn’t make her chief character in this novel any kind of charlatan or trickster. Rather she draws a fascinating portrait of a woman who truly has extra sensitivity, a  sixth sense and, in a believable way, is a receiver of voices from the dead. How she reacts and handles these insistent voices and how she earns a living by using her gifts with other people is what ‘beyond black’ is all about.

Hilary Mantel is an award winning English author whose most popular recent books have been historical; novels based on the life of Thomas Cromwell, who helped Henry VIII become head of the Church of England, by devious means. She has really got under the skin of the psychic in this novel and may result in you thinking again about those who lay claim to hearing from the ‘other side’ and having abilities that most of us could never lay claim to.

- Larry Gordon

Trapped on Mars…

You’d think that the debut novel “The Martian” by Andy Weir would be quite depressing. I mean, it’s about an astronaut who accidentally gets abandoned on a manned Mars mission, and spends the next 18 months struggling to survive in the hopes of being rescued.  However, Andy Weir has written this as an astronauts “log” (think Star Trek), and it’s absolutely hilarious. One of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

themartianEngineer/botanist Mark Watney is on his first trip to space to collect samples on Mars and fix any mechanical problems. But, when the crew is suddenly evacuated, he suffers an accident and the rest of the crew think he’s dead.  In fact, everyone on Earth thinks he’s dead.  Watney has to figure out how to create enough food and water to survive, and more importantly, how to get back in contact with Earth.  He does quite well most of the time, but he also has some major catastrophes – and each one is life threatening, of course.  Can he survive?  Will he make it back to Earth?

This is quite a thrill ride, but also filled with poignant and tender moments at times. Certainly enough action to keep anyone entertained; enough humour to offset the dire circumstances; and enough scientific tidbits of information to inform.  It could be considered science fiction but equally an adventure/thriller.

I enjoyed this novel immensely, as have many others that I’ve recommended it to, both men and women.  For me, it was right up there with “Wool” by Hugh Howey as something a bit unusual and different.   Andy Weir is an author with a sterling career ahead, I feel.

Want to learn more about what Watney may have faced?  Check out new book “Mars up close”.

- Natalie

You can still be friends even if you look different!

pig small“Pig and Small” by Alex Latimer

Pig thinks he has Squeaky Nose Syndrome, but after some serious worry, discovers a tiny bug sitting on his nose squeaking at him.  Bug wants to be friends, and so does Pig, but they can’t find anything they can do together because one is Big and one is Small.  After some failed experiments, like playing chess and catch, Pig realises there are loads of things they can do together where size doesn’t matter – like going to the movies, museums, art galleries, zoos and eating out.  Because best friends don’t care about physical differences as long as they get along!

A very cute picture book for children that will not drive adults crazy (hopefully) when reading it over and over and over ….. and a very good way to teach an important lesson.

- Natalie

Ahoy, me hearties!

pirate signToday, 19 September, is ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’.  Yay.  Not for pirates – after all, they were pretty awful characters (except for Cap’n Jack Sparrow of course, and maybe Smee) but simply because it’s SUCH fun to talk like a pirate!

Your guide to pirate lingo is here or you can watch an instructional video

If you’re really keen on all things piratey, you could even join the pirate party of which most countries seem to have one (who knew?!)

What’s on in the October 2014 school holidays?

space stationFeel like flying into space?  Well, kids, come along to our free craft sessions and who knows what you’ll get up to!

These craft activities are for primary aged children, and an adult needs to accompany younger children please.  As usual, except for Dannevirke, please let your local library know you may attend. Full details on the attached PDF flyer (link) or see the chart below.

Flyer – Tararua District Library – School Holiday Events – October 2014


Library Date Day Time
Dannevirke 30-Sep Tuesday 10 – 11am
Dannevirke 2-Oct Thursday 10 – 11am
Woodville 1-Oct Wednesday 1.30-2.30pm
Woodville 8-Oct Wednesday 1.30-2.30pm
Pahiatua 1-Oct Wednesday 2-3pm
Pahiatua 8-Oct Wednesday 2-3pm
Eketahuna 7-Oct Tuesday 11.30am-12.30pm


That headline made you look didn’t it!  “Vagina” is actually the title of a book, in this case, by Naomi Wolf.  As I have always found with Wolf’s books, one must engage one’s critical thinking and weigh up what she writes, as I find she can be quite opinionated. That proviso aside, this book was very interesting.

vaginaOf course the title “Vagina” is hard to avoid, but if it makes people pick the book up, so much the better. And for those who are put off by it – please don’t be. Whatever else Wolf might be, she is an intelligent woman and the book appears well-researched. So much so that I consider ‘Vagina’ a must-read for woman of all ages – and any man brave enough! I learnt things I never even considered, such as the network of nerves surrounding the vagina is far more extensive than I knew. But I won’t tell you everything I learnt – have a read yourself and you may also learn new things. In this day and age, where the media seems to portray a disconnect between sexuality and spirituality, this book seeks to reconnect this in some way.

Rated 4 out of 5 stars

- Tam

WW1 : Maori Contingent formed

Most Kiwis have heard of the Maori Battalion, and are proud of how they represented New Zealand during the First World War. 16th September was the date the Government announced the formation of a ‘Maori Contingent’ of 200 men for service with the NZEF, later expanded to 500.  But how did it come about?  After all, Mother England, at the time, had a policy that “native peoples” should not bear arms against European forces…

“By the end of the war, 2227 Maori and 458 Pacific Islanders had served in what became known as the Maori Pioneer Battalion. Of these, 336 died on active service and 734 were wounded.

maori battalionThe first Native Contingent sailed from Wellington in February 1915. Major-General Sir Alexander Godley, commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, sent the contingent to Malta for further training and garrison duties.  Eventually, the Native Contingent landed at Anzac Cove on 3 July 1915. Here they joined the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. When the contingent was evacuated from the peninsula with the rest of the ANZACs  in December 1915, it had only two officers and 132 men left.

In mid 1915, the Native Contingent ceased to exist and Maori troops were dispersed amongst other battalions, but in February 1916, Godley reorganised the New Zealand Expeditionary Force into the New Zealand Division and reunited Maori troops as the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion (sometimes referred to as the Maori Pioneer Battalion). The battalion was organised into four companies, each with two Maori and two Pakeha platoons, made up of the remnants of the Otago Mounted Rifles. Maori soldiers in other battalions were encouraged to transfer to the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion, but it was not compulsory.

The newly formed New Zealand Pioneer Battalion arrived in France in April 1916 and became the first unit of the New Zealand Division to move onto the Somme battlefield. They also were at the Messines offensive in 1917.

On 1 September 1917 the battalion became a fully Maori unit – the New Zealand Maori Battalion.  They captured Le Quesnoy from the Germans on 4 November 1918, and were then assigned to the Rhine Garrison and began their march towards Dunkirk. The complete battalion sailed for New Zealand in March 1919 where they received a heroes welcome.”

This web feature was written by Steve Watters and Monty Soutar and you can read the full article at NZ History Online.


If you’d like to delve deeper into the subject, Tararua District Library has several books of interest available. – Natalie


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