Celebrating 150 years of Polish presence in New Zealand

On Sunday 1 May 2022 Polish communities from around New Zealand and beyond gathered in unity to celebrate Polish heritage as part of their New Zealand identity.

Polish artistic identity by Joel Wallan Creative CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 CCL-DW-146561

In 1872 the very first group of Polish Settlers arrived in Lyttelton under Julius Vogel's assisted immigration scheme - Pomeranians from the Baltic region of Prussia (ethnically Kashubians and Kociewians) settled in Canterbury (and other regions in New Zealand). For generations to come they have tirelessly participated and contributed in every part of New Zealand’s social and economic life, with enthusiasm, energy and a drive to succeed.

When the ship ‘Friedeburg’ arrived in Lyttelton, the ‘Star’ newspaper reported:

‘The first shipment of immigrants direct from Germany arrived in Port Lyttelton on Saturday last. The fine iron ship Friedeburg, made the passage from Hamburg in 102 days, and it is very satisfactory to report that the immigrants have arrived at their destination in excellent health and spirits... Speaking of the immigrants as a whole, they are undoubtedly a very good selection, and if they follow the excellent advice given to them by the two interpreters, they will have no reason to regret coming to New Zealand...’

Visitors to Canterbury's First Polish Settlers exhibition by Between the Waters Polish Legacy in NZ Trust CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 CCL-DW-146551

The May event at Tūranga – in the heart of Christchurch, hosted by the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland Mrs Winsome Dormer, attended by many distinguished guests, politicians, local MPs and government officials – was elevated by video messages from the Governor General Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro, and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland Mr Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek.

Address by Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland by Joel Wallan Creative CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 CCL-DW-146491

The guests of honour included the descendants of the original ’Friedeburg’ families – raising their hands in unity!

Violinist Laura Barton from Christchurch Symphony Orchestra moved all with a heart-warming Polonaise by Polish composer M. Oginski ‘The Farewell to my Homeland’. Children from Christchurch Polish Playschool and local Polish folk dance group ‘Polonus’ also performed beautifully to the enthusiastic and appreciative audience.

Performance by Laura Barton - Christchurch Symphony Orchestra by 'Between the Waters' - Polish Legacy in NZ Charitable Trust CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 CCL-DW-146511

The celebrations in Christchurch were a joint effort of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, Honorary Consulate (South Island), ‘Between the Waters’ Polish Legacy in NZ Trust and Polish Association in Christchurch.

Find out more

Amber Li
Multicultural Liaison Coordinator