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Kociewian Hafta – https://artfolk.eu/pl/c/Kociewie/25

Polish Immigration to Otago & Southland


As early as June 1859, the Otago Witness expressed interest in German Immigration, with Germans expected from Germany and Australia that summer. Waihola had already 14 among them, suggesting them to be a very industrious and sober part of the population. The German Association however, dealing with immigrants to Melbourne, advised them not to go to Otago as it was deemed too cold and the inhabitants intolerant. Though anxious to encourage German immigration to New Zealand it was requested an official report be made due to misleading statements, especially regarding tangata whenua.  As early as 1863, a German settlement at Taranaki was seriously contemplated introducing 1000 emigrants to the Colony, consisting of 500 married couples between the ages of 20 and 40 with as few children as possible. Unfortunately with war breaking out again in Taranaki an abrupt termination was forced suggesting negotiations with Otago more suitable.

Papers Past | Newspapers | Otago Witness | 10 February 1872 | News of the Week. (natlib.govt.nz)

On the 20th of June, a deputation was held on the Taieri for the purpose of resuming assisted immigration, but on a larger scale.  The meeting was held between a handful of local Scottish settlers accompanied by James Allan of Hope Hill, District Members of the NZ House of Representatives including Londoner, Julius Vogel and Englishmen, John Harris, Superintendent of Otago. The local farmers stated that they were seriously crippled by the difficulty in obtaining labour and it was suggested that German immigrants in number might be obtained from some of the large shipping houses in Germany.  Newspapers informed the local farmers about the success in establishing German immigrants in settlements at Queensland and Victoria.  By the end of the sixties New Zealand was in a state of economic stagnation and was ready to accept Vogel’s dramatic Financial statement on 28th of June, 1870.  Vogel persuaded the Colonial Government to borrow 10,000,000 pounds within a ten-year period between 1870 and 1880 for the purpose of immigration, resettlement, railway and road construction along with other public works. In fact the next decade saw an influx of around 100,000 immigrants to New Zealand at double the cost of around 20, 000, 000 pounds with 1000 of those being of Polish ethnicity.  A large-scale drive for immigrants not only from the United Kingdom but also from other parts of Europe was decided.  “There, it appeared that people accustomed to the woods and forests, as well as adverse climatic conditions, such as the Poles, would provide the right element to clear and farm a wilderness such as existed in many parts of New Zealand.


Sir Julius Vogel 1866.

Poland, a country far removed from New Zealand, was divided, suffering cruelly under the rule of three hard masters—Prussia, Russia and Austria. The victorious German leaders following the Franco-Prussian war were determined to retain their position of pre-eminence in Europe.  On the 18th of January, 1871, Bismark was successful in bringing the German Confederate states together as one Germany but he saw the Slavs however a hindrance to his intense Germanisation campaign especially in the Prussian partition. He enforced a set of discriminatory laws with great vigour from 1871 to 1877 with intentional ethnic cleansing on a large-scale, particularly against the catholic church, forcing the closure of its churches and Polish schools.  The Polish language was entirely banned and prohibited to be spoken especially at all public affairs. In 1873 the name ‘Kulturcampf’ was given to the political struggle for the rights and self-government of the Catholic church encountering a well-organised and determined Polish resistance.  The ‘West Coast Times’ reports from a Prussian correspondent that in June of 1872, Germany would be recruiting a further 140,000 into the German Army. Compulsory service was introduced by this time from age 20. The first three years were in the regular army followed by four in the reserve. In 1870, the army could call on all males between the ages of 20 and 28 producing an army of 730,000 men. Many were in fear of German conscription actuated by a burning desire to better themselves, rise above the poverty and seek freedom for the future.  Land confiscation was a possibility, leaving many extremely poor with little offer of employment. Many heard of the possibility to migrate to America but often many were diverted to places like Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.  Families pooled together what little money they had for the journeys expenses, and whoever drew the short straw was on their way, not before first visiting the parish priest who would provide them with the necessary documents.  One had to keep their intentions a secret from the Prussian authorities in fear of an early eviction and were smuggled out, especially those families with boys of conscription age.  Some recall their ancestors having to walk the 570 km journey from their village in Kociewie to Hamburg.

Kociewie, Poland.

Kociewie, Poland.

At Hamburg, Germany, the company of Louis Knorr entered into an agreement to find 2,000 migrants within two years from 1871. In order to fill their quota, the New Zealand Government paid an agency fee of one pound per adult to the German sub-agents. Prior to October 1873, the migrants had to pay a fee of five pounds per cost of their passage. However because of strong competition from America, promoting free passage and land, New Zealand soon granted free passage with the opportunity to obtain land. Up until 1876 the New Zealand government had assisted immigrants here, but future immigrants from then on had to be nominated and find their own funding for the passage. Many families sent money back to Poland to make this possible although it was a heavy expense for most.

A grandfather’s reminiscences as told to a grandson.  The story of Jakob Czablewski from the village of Male Turze, Kociewie as told by George Shapleski of Feilding (Part One).  “In my youth one could say that I was a bit of a wanderer, having been in both Germany and Russia. I had visited the Ukraine and worked in the vicinity of the city of Kiev; traveled to Lemberg and at one time or another lived in Posen and Cracow.  Being a horse lover and brought up to work with horse teams -at planting time in the fields, as a coachman and driver, there was little difficulty in finding something, somewhere, to turn a hand at.  It was, I think, in 1861-62 a very severe and cold winter in central Poland.  I was working for the owner of a large estate, usually with horses.  Sometimes called out to act a s coachman to my gentleman employer, host to his visiting town friends.  On the journey we were caught in a sudden blinding and blustery snow blizzard, obscuring trees and roadway.  My passengers, being rugged up and warm, were very anxious for their safety and the vehicle should not be in danger of being up set by straying from the road, producing much anxiety and numerous timid inquiries  of “can you see where you are going, Jakob?” One of my numerous jobs was to accompany workmates on a horse drawn sled, through snow and slush, to the frozen over Vistula, near Starogard, to work at sawing the thick river ice into blocks, then deliver the freezing load to the master’s house where it was stacked in an underground storeroom or cellar for cooling purposes in the warmer weather.  There was always the needed warm comfortable spot out of the cold to be found with the stabled horses in the barn.  Many a time this was a haven for me.  On leaving this job, then seeking the next, resulted in becoming acquainted with my future wife.  We were married in 1863, both in our twenties.

At this time Prussian horse troops were frequently seen in the now German Poland.  There were frequent scuffles, grumbles and discontent at the subjection of our people, foreign occupancy of land, plus the added burden of providing sustenance for German army units, to which Poles were now subject to serve.  The invasion of French territory by Prussian soldiery and the occupation of Paris in 1870-71 was a trying time for many Poles, as during the many domestic upsets caused by the several partitions, steady emigration of people to France took place and, consequently, the war resulted in Polish casualties on both sides.  The desire by us to emigrate had often been talked over and the growing family responsibilities, Some prompting of friends who were in communication with relatives already settled in the Province of Otago, New Zealand, decided us to risk the great voyage.

Emigration was not favoured by Prussian authorities at this time.  Mr Julius Matthies who settled at Hokitika and was a sponsor and promoter of immigration for the New Zealand Government, when visiting the country for the purpose of selecting farm workers, was imprisoned and died while in prison. “We regret to hear of the death, in Prussia, of Mr. Julius Matthies, an old resident in Hokitika, who went Home on business connected with immigration. At the time of his death Mr. Matthies was contemplating his return to Hokitika. He leaves a wife and two children resident in this town.” “Matthies— On the 7th July last, at his mother’s residence, Treptow, Pomerania, Prussia, Julius Eberhardt Matthies, late of Hokitika, of inflammation of the brain. Aged 42 years.” West Coast Times, 1 Oct 1875. The opportunity came and we joined five local families who proposed to immigrate with assistance of the New Zealand Government.  In the late spring a small party of adults and children took a ship from the Baltic port of Danzig, en route to Hamburg, and we were on our way.”  The History of the Polish Settlers in New Zealand J. W. Pobog-Jaworowski (1990), pp 55 & 56. Jakob Czablewski with families; Chajewski, Jakusz, Markinski, Max, Rosanowski and Stobba arrived in New Zealand aboard the Lammershagen which arrived at Wellington on 11th of July 1875. They were sent to the South Island settlement at Jackson’s Bay.

Mr. Wisnesky of Petone, a grandson of Michael & Anna Wisniewski who arrived aboard the Reichstag in 1874 and settled at Waihola, recalled to George Pobóg-Jaworowski on his visit in 1872, “His grandparents came from Turze near Tczew, in Pomerania, a part of Poland which was under German administration. His grandparents told him that the Germans were bad, but the Russians who occupied other parts of Poland were twice as bad. When they heard in their village of the possiblity of emigrating to New Zealand, all Poles there decided to leave.  However this was not easy.  While at home they were employed by the Germans who treated them like pigs, they had to live with the pigs and the payment that they received from their employers represented pocket money rather than salary. When a Polish family decided to leave the village all relatives of the family and their friends had to put all the money together for the travelling expenses from home up to Hamburg, etc. Once a sufficient amount was collected, they prepared a draw and the winner was given the money for the passage.  As a result only small groups were leaving their birth places and any one time. When they arrived in New Zealand they were happy to start a new life here far away from home where a foreign ruler was the master. They never wanted to go back there, anyway they were too poor to afford such travel.” 


A brother-in-law from Liebschau (Lubiszewo Tczewskie) writes to Peter Barra of Waihola for financial assistance for an opportunity to join them in New Zealand.


Barra Letter 1

Barra Letter 2


Envelope: My address is Peter Brzoszkowski in Liebschau by Rukosin

Dear Uncle and Auntie I beg you for your quick answer. Dirschau (Tczew) 20th of June, 1876. Dearest Brother in Law, We received your dear letter together with the money and we thank you for it several times. May Dear God give you a lot of luck and blessings in the foreign country and keep your children in good health,

Dear Brother in Law, with the twenty pound sterling I went to the English bank in Danzig (Gdańsk) and I had to leave the cheque there for which I was given a receipt. We had to wait for the money for six weeks but we did not pay anything for the exchange transaction. Local agents wanted to charge us twenty gulden for arranging the exchange. We received your letter on the 10th of May. The cheque for 20 pounds was first forwarded to London where it was verified. However, the delay did not matter, as we received for it the full equivalent amount of 133 thaler and ten silver groszy. From the above amount I kept for myself 50 thaler and gave the remaining 83 thaler & ten silver groszy to Dusienski.

Dear Brother in Law, quite a lot has changed with our plans to emigrate to New Zealand. Ships with emigrants are not departing to New Zealand any more, they are now sailing to Queensland in Australia, but we do not wish to go there. We wrote to the agent and he replied that he can arrange the passage to New Zealand but this will cost us 111 thaler for each person and we do not have so much money to pay. Should we wish to travel to New Zealand at the old price of eleven thaler per person then the English Government will post us to work in the forest and we will be unable to live with you in the same place. Should we be able to pay the full costs of the passage, only then we will be able to join you. Johan Behrend wrote to his family and they could travel to him. Those people who left in October and November all wrote that they work in the forest and that they are not together with their relatives. Both brothers Drozdowski from Liebschau (Lubsizewo Tczewskie) departed in November for New Zealand and now work also in the forest. The wife of the younger Drozdowski died after six weeks in New Zealand. This news made us very sad. Growski from Dirschau (Tczew) also departed to New Zealand. I have given him your address as he wanted to be with you, has he arrived?

Dear Brother in Law, we are very sad that at present we are unable to travel to New Zealand, especially as I have sold all my belongings. What shall I do now, when no more immigrant ships sail with the low passage fare Dusienski has not sold his belongings. I had to leave my room, because it was discovered that I had plans to emigrate to New Zealand. Now I have to share a room with two other persons.

Dear Brother in Law, we do not wish that you work yourself to death and be left without any money. This will happen should you post money to us all the time. However, should you be able in a year or two to pay for us fully paid passage tickets, then we will be sure that we will be able to join you as we wish to do.  

This letter was translated by Mr. G. Jaworkowski, with the following comments; Written in German possibly as given sentence by sentence by a Pole. The phraseology is very Polish and the writer probably had a limited knowledge of German.

Initially the Poles who boarded the ship Palmerston believed that they were sailing to America, as were most at the time. This is supported by many family stories and Amerika inscribed at the end of some of the Polish Church entries that have since been discovered. It is widely believed that many agents manipulated migrants to board their ships in order to reach their quota. In this instance it was perhaps a case of share naivety as New Zealand at this stage was very much an unknown destination. As many had relatives in America the agent more than likely told them New Zealand shared the same Pacific Ocean.  One such story I heard from the Hoffman family is that it was thought that an English test at Hamburg had possibly determined your fate.  Pass and you could enter America, a fail and it was to the colonies.

The Palmerston was the second major shipment of Poles to New Zealand and the first to the Otago Province, under the scheme. They arrived at Port Chalmers on the 6th of December, 1872 and carried some 105 Poles, the largest contingent to Otago. The majority of these Poles came from what was then West Prussia, ethnically the Polish regions of Kashubia and Kociewie in North Poland.  The passengers were admitted to pratigue on the 23rd of December, and on the same day were sent to Dunedin aboard the Golden Age where they were received into the Immigration Barracks on the corner of Police and Princess Streets. Here they celebrated Christmas Day with much frivolity in a season quite opposite to the old country.  They solemnized the day at the Catholic Chapel of St. Joseph situated nearby together with the christening of three Polish infants that were born on the journey out. The single men were easily disposed of or found work on their own accord by the end of January. However, the disposal of the married immigrants was proving harder to employ. It was known that farmers and run-holders were not too keen on employing them, due to the number of children and lack of English. 28 families in the barracks by this stage were engaged on farms and stations except for the lot from Kociewie and Kaszuby, stating their being little demand for them.


scan0001 (2)

Polish Railway workers near Allanton, kindly provided by Gwen Holleyman.


Mr. Collin Allan, the Immigration Officer at the time, applied to Mr. J. Smith, Messrs Brogden’s agent, to give the remaining families a contract on the Southern Trunk Railway.  With an interpreter this offer was agreed upon, not before it was suggested that two confident immigrants first visit the work site and report back.  In the last quarter of 1871 the Government had entered into an agreement with Messrs. John Brogden and Sons of England to build the remainder of the Dunedin – Clutha line, a portion of track across the Taieri extending a distance of 34 miles and 55 chains, the contractors agreeing to complete the line by the 1st of September 1875. This large contract of necessity caused a great demand for labour and so Messrs. Brogden and Sons hoped to meet this demand by bringing immigrants from England at wages not less than five shillings per day. Before hiring the Palmerston Poles the English Navies being the lowest of the classes were deemed unreliable in which a riot broke out at the Henley Pub rendering it trashed. The Chinese searching for work after the gold diggings were given a go but would disappear for days after pay-day. Having decided upon accepting Mr. Smith’s terms the families were transported into wagons to the township of Greytown (Allanton), the locality where they were to be employed, 24 km from Dunedin, and purchased timber to make frames for the tents in which they were to lodge. Mr. Allan also took the liberty in asking if the Government would be inclined to sell them land in the township with the view of forming a settlement there.



It is interesting to note that the line (24) between Tczew & Starogard Gdański was completed on the 16th of January 1871. August Plewa who arrived on the Palmerston was one of those platelayers in Poland. So is it coincidental that a number of them ended up constructing the railway in New Zealand.


In order to push the line south it was essential at first to drain the Taieri. It was necessary to cut large ditches to drain the swamp before formation work could begin and the early Poles were known to work in great depths of water from early morning till dusk. At Waihola alone some 180 men were working, some on piecework, others on day labour. By the end of 1872, over 320 men were employed on the section and it was possible to see men at work along the whole 35 miles of the line.  While the works moved forward some decided to stay permanently in the Allanton area, while others moved south to the settlement at Waihola, which was regarded as a better supply for wood and water. It also provided a familiar feel of their region in the home country, which is renowned for its many lakes and forests. Here they intended to settle down permanently and send for more of their country folk to come and join them. Charles Hilgendorf, a local contractor took them under his wing and wrote on their behalf to their families back in Poland.

“A number of Germans at work on the railway near the Waihola Gorge, are spoken of by their employers in terms of high commendation. They are steady and sober, good workmen, walk to and from Waihola, (where they live) and when pay-time comes round do not disappear for a few days to recover.” BH, 8 Sept 1874.

By 1874 the stream of migrants were arriving in such a flow that Provincial officials were struggling to ‘dispose’ of all migrants cheaply and efficiently. The reports of their difficulties alerted higher officials to the argument that it was more expensive to dispose of Scandinavian and German migrants than the UK migrants. The cheaper UK migrants that were pouring in could more than meet the political demands for hard-working, reproducing settlers. The flow from Hamburg could thus be halted. Vogel sent Featherston a telegram, 10 September 1874, instructing him to send 1200 migrants to Otago each month until December, “none after, except nominated or specially selected”. Between 1874 & 1880 only a further 93 fellow Poles arrived in Otago reuniting with family members.

“THE’ VOGEL POLICY. In the new policy of Sir Julius Vogel immigration was a strong feature, and agents were sent to England and Europe with very wide powers of discretion. They were particularly active in the Northern countries, which produced a class of emigrant better suited for amalgamation with the British than the Southern Europeans. The German Government took cognisance of the emigration tendency, and in 1873 announced that it would expel from the country any emigration recruiter who was not of German nationality. The same threat was made again in 1877, but by this time New Zealand had obtained all the immigrants that were urgently required, and foreign recruiting was stopped. The number of persons who left Germany in 1874 was 73,793, and needless to say a large number of these reached New Zealand. One of the immigration camps established at Porangahau in that year was composed entirely of Germans and German Poles, who had been asked for by the Hawke’s Bay Provincial Government. New Zealand Mail, 20 March 1907, p. 10, col. 1-4.

A letter written to Francisca Switala of Allanton from her godson, Josef Willmann.


Switalla Letter1Switalla Letter2

Switalla Letter3Switalla Letter4


Gruppe, 25 June 1876. Dear Aunt, Uncle and Siblings, I received your worthy letter while in the best of health and would like to express my most sincere thanks to you. Firstly I would like to send very best wishes from us all over the seas and continents to you. We were very pleased to get your letter and to learn that you are all still healthy, alive and doing well. Firstly I want to describe the same situation. Grandfather is still rather ill but he is now stronger than he was earlier. They are still much the same as they have always been. What I do not know is where old Schweder is. Behrendt has a new lodger in the room where Schweder used to live. I can not say how Behrendt and Willman are getting on, but there is certain to be the same old argument.  My father still lives in Locken with Lyskowski’s father [or: with old Von Lyskowski]. Much has changed in his [my father’s] family since I last wrote to you. He has married off three of his children. That is me. Michal [sic] and Marie. We all married last year in October. As I wrote to you in my last letter, I have married well. My wife has received a good deal of wealth: Beds and some livestock. So I am living quite happily now and so is Aniela, who is in service in Locken as a housekeeper. When I last wrote to you I was in Graudenz but there is another village this side of Weichfeld. Marie married well too. She married Wizenty Hesieki, who is a steward on an estate in Locken. They have been allotted good land, have two cows grazing in the master’s [i.e. the local landowner’s] fields; a pretty house and garden for the winter and the summer costs 80 thaler, 24 bushels of rye and 4 bushels of wheat. They are doing well. Michal is well and what is even better is that he has married a girl and is living together with her parents. Soon he will be farming an allotment in Jenin. Only Father still has his problems. He is well but still having so many children and having to feed them costs a lot. He asks whether you could send him some money, if you really do have so much. He wants to come to you soon. If it were up to him he wouldn’t want to come even as far as here, but he does want to make the little children happy. At Whitsun he was here with us in Gruppe and said that when I wrote I should ask you to help him back on to his feet, since Mother is also wanting to go on a trip.

My dear Aunt and Uncle, I must also tell you that when we look around here many people have gone to Australia. Your old neighbour, Witkowski, has gone. Six families have gone from Locken (Obozin) and 40 families have gone from the Kakosk (Kokoszkowy) estates. Apart from that, nothing much has happened here. The hay harvest is taking place now. There is no word about war to be heard here. Crops here are as I described to you in my last letter. I was wed twice too, first in the registry office and then in the church. The monasteries have all been dissolved and where a priest dies, no one takes his place. We hope that God’s help will help us all get back to how it used to be.  Now I will finish and a thousand greetings to you all from us. Parents, siblings and mother together with their wives all send their greetings. We are all in good health and no one has died. Only Huseh [?] is still sick. He has been ill in bed for two years now, and the prospects of his regaining his health look no better. One last request: do write to us again soon. Getting a letter from you is a source of great joy for us. I will write to you again too. Once again best wishes, and my wife also sends her best wishes. I remain yours affectionately, Josef Willmann. My address to Willman – Rural Delivery Recipient in Gruppe, Schwetz District, Marienwerder Province, West Prussia.

On 1 September 1875, after some major setbacks, the Dunedin to Clutha line was opened for service as scheduled. During the years 1875-77 railway construction was in operation between Invercargill and Gore towards Clinton. The line was let out in sub-contracts of a mile or so, therefore, one could see tents here and there along the route while others settled for a time at Waipahi. For the portion of the line between Gore and Pukerau the men seemed to live mostly near Gore or at the settlement of Germantown on the Pinnacle Road where a number of Poles decided to settle.

In mid 1874, Johan Bucholz (via the Palmerston) was successful in the ballot for a 200-acre section of land on the Pinnacle Road north of Gore, beside an old coal reserve which many who resided there would become reliant on making a living. He was soon joined by a considerable number of his fellow countrymen who had arrived in the province aboard the ship Terpsichore in early 1876. In total, between 20 and 30 families of various nationalities had been living in this small settlement aptly named Germantown due to the language spoken by the people who settled there.

Finally on the 22nd of January, 1879 it was stated that the Main Trunk Line from Dunedin to Invercargill was declared opened. After its opening, several families followed the railway works on the Middlemarch and Riversdale lines.

Prussia persists in her ‘Germanising’ attemps upon the Polish nationality.  The NZ Tablet, Vol XVII, Issue 8, 14 Jun 1889, P. 19, Col. 1. 


A family reconnects, 1894.

Halba Letter 1

Halba Letter 2


Greeting from far away.  Liebschau (Lubiszewo Tczewskie), 8th of December, 1894.  Praised be to Jesus Christ.  I reach for my pen to write to you with happiness and tears in my eyes as I hear that you are alive my dear Uncle and Auntie.  I could not speak as I had tears in my eyes when the parish priest told me the news in his office. 

Dear Uncle and Auntie, I was always under the impression that you were dead and had already ordered a few masses for the repose of your souls in your memory. 

Dear Uncle and Auntie, I have written to you a letter in which I posted a photo of myself in army uniform, but I received no reply. 

Dear Uncle and Auntie, please answer me.  You would like to know what wife I have.  I have married Julianna Ludwichowska and my children are, Franz 17 years, Johanna 15 years who died, Anna 13 years & Michal six years. My brother Franz is in Klein Malsau (Małżewko), my brother Jakob is in Sachsliben (Szczerbięcin) employed as master baker, Pauline married a carpenter and Anna married a bricklayer, but I do not know any of my brothers-in-law. 

Dear Uncle and Auntie, myself and my brother Frank, we are well.  I live in Liebschau. Dear Uncle and Auntie, please send me your photographs.  We all send greetings to you Uncle and Auntie and your son Joseph.  Peter Brzoskowski.  Letter kindly provided by Peter Chiles.


Germantown, near East Gore, had its incidents, its characters and its moments of glory, but as a settlement it was short-lived. After the completion of the main trunk railway some continued railway construction on the Waimea, Waipahi-Tapanui or Gore-Lumsden line while others went on to establish farms of their own. Gradually as the employment of railway gangers declined the settlers moved on and took up other jobs or acquired land for themselves at Gore or surrounding areas. The quaint settlement that existed beside the Pinnacle Road until the late 1890s now lies without a hint of its past except for a line of trees that expose its northern boundary..

Many at Waihola went on to purchase or work on small farms such as Adams Farm near Waihola and supplemented their farming income by either taking seasonal work at the Waihola flax mills or working for the Lime and Phosphate companies at Milburn and Claredon. During the late 1880s the families of Barra, Jankowski, Klimek, Kreft, Orlowski and Philipowski, a small group of experienced Poles in plate-laying, left Waihola for Melbourne where they found work laying the Australian Southern Railway.

Poles in the Allanton area either moved to Dunedin or found employment at local farms such as the farm of Mr. James Allan, aptly named Hopehill, who had taken an interest in their welfare since their first arrival.

The Poles were a tight-knit community and for a long time the young men, especially, were very fearful that German officials would arrive and compel them to return to Prussia and serve out their military service. It has been said that once the railway line through the Taieri had been completed, a member of each family would take turns to go down to the station early in the morning on train days, checking whether the dreaded oppressors had arrived in Dunedin. If necessary they intended to go into hiding.  Black arm bands were worn by many in defiance against the oppressors in the hope that one day Poland would be returned to its former glory.

Pomeranian Births

The majority of Polish immigrants who settled in Otago & Southland were born in the Kociewian region except for 1. Baumgardt & 2. Hoffman, who are initially from the region of Kaszuby.

Pomeranian departing

The majority of Polish immigrants of Otago and Southland departed from within the Kociewian region except for the families of; 1. Baumgardt and 2. Orlowski from Kaszuby. Gdansk is 30 km north and Malbork Castle 15 km to the west.


From 18 ships, some 200 Poles arrived who then worked and settled in the Otago/Southland region during the Vogel era. Within those 200 were some 50 families and individuals.  Today there are thousands of Polish descendants who still live in the Otago and Southland region.  The following are Polish names associated to towns and settlements in Otago and Southland.

Allanton; Beleski (Bielicki), Dysarski (Tysarczyk), Grenz (Grenca), Gorinski (Gurzyński), Hieffskie (Chajewski), Klass (Klaas), Konkel (Kąkol), Kovaleski (Kowalewski), Kreft, Pedofsky (Pędowski, Perniski (Piernicki), Rogatski (Rogacki), Smolenski (Smoliński), Switalla (Świtała), Tikey (Teike), Trapski (Trąpski), Velenski ( Waliński) and Wroblenski (Wróblewski).

Dunedin; Bischefski (Byszewski) Lubecki, Yewchinska (Jurczyńska), at the Pine Hill settlement; Danitz (Gdaniec), Konkel (Kąkol), Kreft and Perniski (Piernicki).

East Taieri (Riccarton); Rogatski (Rogacki) and Tikey (Teike).

Evans Flat; Dunikowski

Fairfield; Tikey (Teike), Klemick (Klimek) and Smolenski (Smoliński).

Germantown (Gore District); Belesky (Bielicki), Bucholz (Bucholc), Bungard (Baumgardt), Dovalosky (Dowalowski), Halfka (Haftka), Klukofsky (Klukowski), Hoffman, Regefsky (Rydzewski), Szczepański, Schultz (Szulc), and Tecofsky (Tykowski).

Hampden; Danitz (Gdaniec).

Invercargill District; Belesky (Bielicki), Bielawski, Dobeck (Dobek), Dunick (Zdunek), Gorenski (Gurzyński), Hoffman, Jackush (Jakusz), Klemick (Klimek), Klukofsky (Klukowski), and Orlowski (Orłowski),

Milton District; Barra (Bara), Halba, Klimeck (Klimek), Kreft, Orlowski, Plever (Plewa), Rekowski and Welnoski (Welna/Welnowski).

Momona; Wisnesky (Wiśniewski).

Mosgiel Junction; Mehalski (Michalski).

Nightcaps; Klemick (Klimek) and Tikey (Teike).

Oamaru; Perniskie (Piernicki), Shrimski and Wisnesky (Wiśniewski).

Port Chalmers; Pedofsky (Pedowski), Smolenski (Smoliński) and Tikey (Teike).

Pahia; Tecofsky (Tykowski).

Riversdale; Welnoski (Welnowski).

Waihola; Annis (Anys), Barra (Bara), Bungard (Baumgardt),  Cherkowska (Chiłkowski), Dovalosky, Dysarski (Tysarczyk), Danitz (Gdaniec), Grantz (Grenca), Halba, Hieffskie (Chajewski), Hoffman, Jankowski, Klemick/Klimeck (Klimek), Kreft, Orlowski, Plever (Plewa), Rekowski (Reikowski), Regefsky (Rydzewski), Smolenski (Smolinski), Tikey (Teike), Welnoski (Welna/Welnowski) and Wisnesky (Wiśniewski).

Waipahi; Belisky (Bielicki) and Tropsky (Trapski).

Surnames were often Germanized during the period of Prussian occupation, so one often has to go back as far as pre 1795 to find the original spelling. Many ethnic groups saw an importance to associate themselves with a common distinctiveness. Those that regarded themselves as Polish associated themselves with the Catholic faith. Hence the coined saying at the time: to be Catholic is to be Polish and to be Polish is to be Catholic.

Today only a few remnants remain, such as the odd sod cottage or wooden villa, to remind us of the once quaint Polish settlements.  Due to the settlers assimilating well into English society, only snippets of Polish sayings and words have remained but are fast fading in time and of course the Polish surnames, now but known mostly in their Anglised form, all leaving a lasting footprint in time. As Shaw sums it up well, “They were noted for their thrift, discipline, application to hard work, and drank amazing amounts of alcohol; they maintained their religious affiliations, and lived quite happily unmolested until they were ready to shift to greener pastures”.


Allanton Crowd3

Gathering at Allanton. Kindly provided by Gwen Holleyman.


This article is based on the work of much appreciated writers of early Otago and Southland and of those who were passionate about their Polish origins, especially the writings of Pauline J. Morris, a descendant of the Baumgardt family of Waihola & the documented research of George Pobóg-Jaworowski.  A special thanks also to those in New Zealand & Poland that have dedicated their time and passion researching Polish heritage, especially Ray Watembach from Waitara and Stanley Frymark of Kaszuby, Poland.


Beattie, H., Pioneer Recollections, Fourth Series: Mainly of the Gore Districts, Christchurch, 1997.

Davis, N., God’s Playground: A History of Poland, Vol. II, New York, 1982.

McArthur, J. F., Golden Reflections: A History of the Waikaka Valley, Waikaka Valley, 1990.

Morris Pauline J., German-speaking Settlements in Otago and Southland, Ch. 4., The German Connection Bade James N., 1993.

Paszkowski, L., Poles in Australia and Oceania: 1790-1940, Sydney, 1987.

Pobόg-Jaworowski, J. W, History of the Polish Settlers in New Zealand, ed. Warsaw; Chz “Ars Polonia.” 1990, page 43

Shaw, M. S. & Farrant, E. D., The Taieri Plain: Tales Of Years That Are Gone, Capper Press, Christchurch, 1977.

Sinclair K., A History of New Zealand, Fourth Edition, Penguin Books, China, 1991.

Research Sources

Archives New Zealand, Passenger Lists, 1839-1973, FamilySearch.

Bailey M., Assisted Polish Migrants to Otago: The 1870’s, Otago University, 2000.

Catholic Diocese of Dunedin, St Mary’s Church, Milton; Baptism Register.

City Talk, “Didn’t we do well”: Otago Anniversary 1848-1998, Dunedin, 1998.

New Zealand, Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (1858-1999), 1873 D-1.

Polona, Warsaw, 1990.

Walsh John, Masterton, supplied history of Prussia.


Papers Past (natlib.govt.nz)


Compiled by Paul Klemick. (2021)

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Poles in New Zealand

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“Poles Down South” jest stroną internetową organizacji polonijnej w Nowej Zelandii działającej w rejonie Otago i Southland na Wyspie Południowej. Siedzibą organizacji jest Dunedin.


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