The day last November when Pahiatua welcomed back more than 30 Polish "children," 73 years after they first arrived, is forever etched in the memory of those involved, Louise Powick, Pahiatua On Track chairwoman, says.

The group returned with the Polish ambassador for the unveiling of a plaque outside the Tararua District Council building on Main St, commemorating their arrival and celebrating their deep connection to the town.

This followed a 70th reunion in 2014 when hundreds of former camp children returned to Pahiatua and the site of their former camp they called "little Poland".

"Last year's reunion served to unite many individuals and groups in our community, bringing together young and old and reigniting a passion for our history," Powick said.


In 1944, Pahiatua became home to 734 Polish children and 103 adults, refugees from war-torn Europe.

"For many of us, we could not imagine the hardship the Polish children endured and the arduous trip across many continents to finally reach the Polish camp on the outskirts of Pahiatua in 1944," Powick said.

"This remarkable story of courage and perseverance stirred the hearts of the people of Pahiatua.

"A wave of emotion triggered an outpouring of generosity and goodwill. A spiritual connection lying dormant was again brought back to life.

"Pahiatua was proud of its history. Pahiatua felt significant and was humbled.

"But it felt like just as we had welcomed our Polish friends home, we had to bid them farewell. The few hours spent together didn't seem long enough.

"We were so grateful they had taken the time to visit. Many had been touched by this meeting.

"New friendships had been forged and a younger generation vowed to continue with this union and strengthen the relationship between Pahiatua and the Polish community."


Now the ties that bind the two communities together have come to fruition in a twin towns agreement between Pahiatua and Kazimierz Dolny in Poland, with special attention given to establishing contacts and co-operation between schools in both towns.

"This mutually beneficial relationship between our two communities is unique and highly valued," Powick said.

For Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis, the regard in which the Polish children, now in their 70s and 80s, hold Pahiatua, is something unique and special.

"I'm absolutely humbled to the core as to how they regard us," she said. "And the twin town relationship will grow that feeling."

The twin town signing is about to be taken to a new level, with the arrival of the Polish president Andrzej Duda in New Zealand this month.

Governor general Dame Patsy Reddy has invited Collis to a state dinner for Duda at Government House in Auckland on Wednesday, August 22, where the twin town document will be signed.

Collis will take Powick as her guest.