The first main contingent of 92 Polish settlers arrived at Lyttleton aboard the Friedeburg on the 30th August 1872 & 100 Polish nationals at Port Chalmers aboard the Palmerston on the 6th December 1872. Chain migration followed with Polish settlements at; Banks Peninsula (1872), Marshland (1872), Greytown Allanton (1873), Waihola (1873) Germantown (1875), Jackson’s Bay (1875), Hokitika (1875) Carterton (1876), Dannevirke (1876) Halcombe (1876) Inglewood (1876), Midhirst (1876), Stratford (1876) & Rangitikei (1876).
The largest contingent was 259 Polish settlers aboard the Fritz Reuter which arrived in Wellington on the 12th April 1876. All further requests for migrants from Europe were halted in 1876 due to a sufficient quota reached. It is estimated around 1000 Polish immigrants arrived upon these shores during the 19th Century.
Today only a few remnants remain, such as the odd sod cottage, wooden villa or church, to remind us of their once quaint Polish settlements. Due to the settlers assimilating well into English society, only snippets of Polish sayings and words have been passed down. In most regions of New Zealand all that remains of the early Polish pioneers are their surnames etched on their headstones, now mostly known in their Anglicised form.
These settlers “were noted for their thrift, discipline, application to hard work, and drank amazing amounts of alcohol; they maintained their religious affiliations, and lived quite happily, free of danger, until they were ready to shift to greener pastures”.
Ukraine, our hearts and thoughts go out to you.
Poles were driven from their homeland suffering years of oppression. Victorious from the Franco Prussian War (1870-71), Bismarck was enabled to unite the Prussian States into modern day Germany and enforce upon the citizens German Law. Mistrust in the Papal saw Bismarck release a set of reforms to bring the Catholic Church to its knees, the church was seen as uniting the Polish people.
Speaking or having any Polish contraband was illegal and any form of Polish education was abolished. Catholic Priests were gaged on any political views at their sermons. The ‘final straw’ was when conscription into the German army at the age of 20 became compulsory.
In 1870 in order to help New Zealand connect all its major cities, Julius Vogel sought to bring in immigrants from Europe with the skills to help build the infrastructure which required large areas of land development. German agents, employed by the New Zealand Government in the region, gave positive descriptions of the new colony as they were seeking settlers and labourers.
Of course “Emigration was not favoured by Prussian authorities at this time. Mr Julius Matties who had lived at Hokitika and was a sponsor and promoter of immigration for the New Zealand Government, when visiting the country for the purpose of selecting farm workers, was imprisoned and died while in prison”.
In spite of the danger many Poles were seeking the freedom they much desired for their children, they decided to risk it all and embark on a sea voyage of three months with the prospect of starting over again with literally very little. ”The bulk of these were from Pomerania, chiefly from the Polish regions of Mieszane, Kaszuby, Kociewie, Wielkopolska & Poznan”.
History and Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and Paul Klemick.
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