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New Zealand's First Refugees: Pahiatua's Polish Children

The call of New Zealand bush

The call of New Zealand bush

One day in 1946 I was told that I was to leave the Polish Children's Camp in Pahiatua and go to work in Wellington. Tailoring was chosen for me and I was good at it. But as a child in Poland I was used to open spaces, rivers and forests, and the sight of my forester father's gun. I thank the person who introduced me to a tramping club and the New Zealand bush.

I joined the Wellington Defence Rifle Club where I learnt the basics of accurate shooting. Soon I was spending all my weekends tramping and hunting, never missing a Christmas holiday tramp in the Southern Alps. In those days it was easy to get a job, but when I applied to the Department of Internal Affairs for a deer-culler's job there were 300 names on the waiting list. The idea that you could go hunting and be paid was very attractive, so I decided to take on deer culling for a few months' holiday.

I was interviewed by Ron Fraser, the conservator of forests, Wild Life Branch for the Department of the Internal Affairs, in his offices in Wellington. He asked for my qualifications, looked me over and said: "This is man's country. If you can handle it and survive in it, OK. If not, out you go down the bloody road."

A deer culler puts his life in danger every day. We worked in very rough terrain and there was always a possibility of injury from slipping or falling rocks, drowning or becoming isolated for a very long time. I hunted deer for four years. I always felt perfectly at home in the bush and never felt lost. In the Southern Alps, I understood what was around me, knew every sound and felt very safe. They were the happiest years of my life.