First Polish Settlers in Canterbury & NZ Commemorative Exhibition

‘Between the Waters’ Polish Legacy in NZ Charitable Trust in cooperation with Methven Mt Hutt Memorial Hall presents a remarkable, Polish chapter in NZ history, framed in the chronicles of four families that disembarked from ‘Friedeburg’ in Lyttelton Harbour in August 1872. All the way from Prussia, Europe.

Photo: Supplied

The Kotlowskis, Gierszewskis, Szymanskis & Watembachs were, among others, part of wave of immigration which saw New Zealand’s settlers’ population double to about 500,000 during the 1870s. More Poles came later. Some convinced family members to join them. Others came independently.

Beautifully presented records of first Polish Settlers to Canterbury region, supported by a number of photos, offer a story mix of hardships, challenges and achievements while embracing community spirit and heart-felt determination of eastern origin.

The exhibition is an initiative undertaken by the Trust following the 2017 Celebrations of 145 years of Polish Settlement, presented at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, with the purpose to further acknowledge the legacy and to advocate and promote Polish Heritage as part of NZ ethnic identity.

Photo: Supplied

The exhibition has been organised with an encouragement and critical support from Methven local identity – Angela Grieve, the youngest of seven children born to Eva (nee Marsh) and Charlie Clemens. Her father was a WWI returning soldier. Her Mother was a granddaughter of Polish immigrants Michael and Annie Schimanski.

Early Polish Settlers exhibition aims to celebrate ethnic identity and to inspire descendants of local pioneers from other countries to share and honor their heritage.

Event includes promotion of the book by Polish New Zealander Jacek R. Drecki: ‘Ignacy Jan Paderewski, a Pianist Amidst the Geysers’ – meticulously researched account of unprecedented musical events that took place in early 20th century NZ. Paderewski – the pianist, composer, politician, statesman and one of the first Prime Ministers of Independent Poland, has toured New Zealand in 1904 & 1927. The publishing of the book coincides with the centenary of Poland regaining independence after WW1 and pays tribute to Paderewski’s contribution towards this effort and his role in forging a lasting friendship between Poland and NZ.

Photo: Supplied

When Paderewski gave his charitable concert in Wellington, he unavoidably demonstrated his full conviction that Poland and New Zealand are allies, bonded by the love of freedom and democracy, so deeply rooted in both nations.
Through the exchanges of generosity, courtesy and empathy on this occasion, but also during entire second tour, it had become more evident to everyone that Poland and New Zealand upheld and promoted similar values and principles in both, cultural and political spheres.
This consequently led to a solidarity in the striving to right the wrongs in the world”

What: ‘Canterbury’s First Polish Settlers’ Exhibition
When:  23rd September 16 November, 2018
Where: Mt Hutt Memorial Hall, 160 Main Street, Methven, Canterbury, NZ

Sponsored by: ‘Between The Waters’ Polish Legacy in NZ Charitable Trust