Taranaki Celebrates Polish Settlement Since 1876. Here are some past Celebrations.

SIMON O’CONNOR/FAIRFAX NZMartha Syzmanska 86, is organising a reunion for the descendants of polish settlers that came to Taranaki 140 years ago.

The descendants of Polish immigrants who came to Taranaki in the 1800s are being encouraged to celebrate their history. New Plymouth woman Martha Szymanska is organising a reunion with the descendants of polish settlers in the area, on the 140th anniversary that the Polish ship the Fritz Reuter landed in New Zealand.

The ship carried around 500 people from Hamburg to Wellington, with a number of the Polish immigrants on board settling in Bell Block and later Inglewood in 1876.

SIMON O’CONNOR/FAIRFAX NZFritz Reuter place was opened in 1991, in recognition of the Polish settlers that worked in Inglewood.

Szymanska, 86, first became interested in recognising her Polish heritage 40 years ago. “In 1976 I wanted a family reunion because that’s when my grandfather came to New Zealand, and nobody would support me for a family reunion,” she said.

“I went to the parish priest and he said ‘oh it would be a shame if we missed out on such an important occasion’.” After the priest made an announcement, “practically the whole church stood up and said ‘well my grandfather came on that ship too’, so it became a centenary.”

Szymanska said she was interested in organising the 140th “because I probably won’t be able to organise the 150th anniversary if I’m still here on this earth”. So far around 100 people have signed up to the celebrations and Szymanska is expecting more.

“People come to church at the last minute and they will probably register at the last minute,” she said. Part of the celebrations will centre around the Fritz Reuter gallery, inside the Fun Ho! toy museum, and Inglewood’s Fritz Reuter place which was named in recognition of the settlers and opened by former prime minister Jim Bolger in 1991.

Szymanska has organised for two displays to be put up in the gallery and the Inglewood Library, which trace some of the history of the Polish settlers.

The celebrations will include a tour around a number of places where the early settlers lived and worked, including Marsland Hill where they first lived in New Plymouth at a makeshift immigration centre, and a number of cemeteries around the region where Polish settlers were buried.

Anyone interested in the celebrations can send a letter to  PO Box 5116 Westown, New Plymouth.