23 sierpnia 2018
Opening of 'Polskie Dzieci Square' (Polish Children Square) in Wellington (1)
President meets Polish WWII refugees in New Zealand (2)
Opening of 'Polskie Dzieci Square' (Polish Children Square) in Wellington (3)
Opening of 'Polskie Dzieci Square' (Polish Children Square) in Wellington (4)
Opening of 'Polskie Dzieci Square' (Polish Children Square) in Wellington (5)
Opening of 'Polskie Dzieci Square' (Polish Children Square) in Wellington (6)
Opening of 'Polskie Dzieci Square' (Polish Children Square) in Wellington (7)
Opening of 'Polskie Dzieci Square' (Polish Children Square) in Wellington (8)
President Andrzej Duda decorated representatives of the Polish Children of Pahiatua (9)
President Andrzej Duda decorated representatives of the Polish Children of Pahiatua (10)
President Andrzej Duda decorated representatives of the Polish Children of Pahiatua (11)
President Andrzej Duda decorated representatives of the Polish Children of Pahiatua (12)
President Andrzej Duda decorated representatives of the Polish Children of Pahiatua (13)
President Andrzej Duda decorated representatives of the Polish Children of Pahiatua (14)
President Andrzej Duda decorated representatives of the Polish Children of Pahiatua (15)
President meets Polish WWII refugees in New Zealand (16)
President meets Polish WWII refugees in New Zealand (17)
President meets Polish WWII refugees in New Zealand (18)
President meets Polish WWII refugees in New Zealand (19)
President meets Polish WWII refugees in New Zealand (20)
President meets Polish WWII refugees in New Zealand (21)
President meets Polish WWII refugees in New Zealand (22)
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Polish President Andrzej Duda met representatives of the Polish Children of Pahiatua on Thursday, a group of 733 Polish war refugees resettled to New Zealand as children in 1944.

The President, who has been on a trip to Australia and New Zealand, said the meeting with the Polish Children of Pahiatua, held in the capital of Wellington, "crowns our visit here, in the Antipodes," and is "the culminating moment for me."

The head of state thanked the group for "keeping Poland in the hearts ever since childhood, for so many decades." Despite coming to New Zealand many years ago, "Poland and Polishness is in you all the time," he added, "you have passed it on to your children, you are passing it on to your grandchildren, and for this I am immensely grateful."

Andrzej Duda also thanked the Polish Pahiatua community for providing support, including accommodation in New Zealand, for compatriots who fought Poland's Soviet-installed communist regime.

Moreover, the President said, the group has been making "a beautiful testament for Poland here, in New Zealand" and the mother country, now fully sovereign, is "respected here precisely thanks to you, thanks to who you are as people."

The head of state decorated representatives of the Polish Children of Pahiatua and earlier, attended the opening of 'Polskie Dzieci Square' (Polish Children Square) in Wellington and laid flowers at a memorial to the children.

Having spent four days in Australia and now also having met New Zealand leaders and the local Polish diaspora, on Thursday evening local time the President, and First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda are scheduled to return to Poland.

The 733 Polish refugee children and 105 adult caregivers arrived in Wellington Harbour on October 31, 1944. On November 1, they were settled into a Polish Children's Camp at Pahiatua, north of Wellington. The children, invited to New Zealand by the country's government, had lost their homes and families following the 1939 German invasion of Poland and the country's subsequent occupation by the USSR.

Many of the children were relatives of victims of the infamous 1940 Katyń Massacre, in which the Soviet NKVD security service mass-executed over 20,000 Polish POWs, chiefly army officers and policemen, in western Russia's Katyń Forest. (PAP)

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