The train ride to Pahiatua
At the beginning of World War II a unit of the Red Cross was formed in Kaiwharawhara, Wellington, where I lived. We had a variety of things to do, such as working in casualty at Aotea Quay and Wellington Hospitals. One of the things that I will always remember was the arrival of the Polish refugee children in Wellington on 1 November 1944.
It was a lovely sunny morning and the train pulled in alongside the ship that these people had travelled on. There were sweets handed around and lots of smiles from us all. I guess they were a bit apprehensive and wondered what life in New Zealand would be like.
Then when the two or three of us were allotted to look over each carriage and everyone else was on board, the train, pulled by a steam engine, set off for Pahiatua.
Red Cross nurse Mollie Baoumgren escorts a group of children (including Władysława Kubiak, left) from the USS General Randall in Wellington to a waiting train for the ride to Pahiatua on 1 November 1944. This was the final leg to safety after an almost five-year ordeal of war, misery and exile from Poland for the young mostly orphaned children
Everybody seemed to look happy as they saw the mountains, rivers and lovely green hills. There were lunches for all and everyone appeared ready for it. We arrived in Pahiatua late in the afternoon and were offloaded into a convoy of army trucks which took us to the Polish Children's Camp. The newcomers were keen to see where they were going to live and I think they were quite excited.
We all had a meal together, after which all who had helped get all of these people to their destination set off to Wellington by bus.
That was 60 years ago, and I have often thought of that day and hope that they have called New Zealand home.page 264