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150 Years of Polish Settlement in Southern New Zealand…….My Involvement

I know it’s an odd subject for our blog on Stewart Island, so perhaps a little background …..

Iris and I are good friends of Ewa Rozecka and Keith Pollard.  Ewa was chair of Hertitige Inns and Iris and I were on the board, and I was webmaster.  I knew Ewa was chair of “Poles Down South” and she was telling me she was rather unhappy with their web site. I had a look, thought it could look so much better, and offered to rebuild it for her. The design was quite straight forward, and beyond that was mainly “cut and paste” from the old pages and adding things like locational maps, news clippings and such things.

The website is a celebration of the stories of the families who immigrated from Poland, and is almost entirely the work of Paul Klemick.

I became fascinated by the stories ….. even though it was mostly cut and paste I couldn’t help reading many of the family accounts. And equally so the combination of circumstances that led to their departing Poland, and sailing, as assisted immigrants to New Zealand, and why New Zealand actively and financially supported their immigration.

Anyway, this year was chosen as the 150th anniversary of that wave of Polish migration, and, as you can imagine a number of events was planned, with the culmination being an Opening Ceremony last Friday evening, followed by an informal get-together with a brief display of each family’s story and  Polish Art. You can find these stories under “Families” at Home – Poles Down South .

On the Saturday Afternoon Paul Klemick hosted a Seminar at The Otago Early Settlers Museum, followed later in the evening by a Gala Dinner.

Iris and I were deeply honoured to receive a formal invitation. And even more surprised to be told that I was to be one of 7 to be presented with the “Honorary Medal of Merit for Polish Culture” by His Excellency, Mr Grzegorz Kowai, the Polish Ambassador to New Zealand.

For me the POHOS website started as a way of helping a friend, but quickly became a fascinating and rewarding project that seriously expanded my understanding of New Zealand history. And as I’ve said to many folks ….  “Who Knew ???”….. But I should have, as like many (most??) New Zealanders I have worked with many people with Polish names, and never given a thought to how their families came to be here.

So Iris and I had a wonderful weekend. We met lots of people whose family stories I’d read, and, I hope, made many new friends.





Iris studying one of the many displays

There were several items of art and memorabilia.
The center piece of this cake is a painting of a Polish settler plowing overlooking Lake Waihola.
The original painting was on display
The framing decoration symbolizes the plowed soil.

The smaller lapel medal was present to Iris by the Ambassador.
She had given him a gift of Stewart Island “Ambergris Soap” and an invitation to him and his family to stay with us on Stewart Island

Iris & I