A Story Of Kazimierz Wodzicki

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I am 7 years old and just ended a journey of my life. It is 1963 I have travelled through half the world by ship. I left my little world in a Polish town to come to New Zealand to meet an unknown grandmother. I arrived in Wellington with my parents and sister by plane as the ship did not go as far as New Zealand.

Half a century has passed since then and I have been back and forth between our two countries many times.
Now I don't remember exactly the first time I met Kazimierz Wodzicki and his wife Maria but I know that they were among the first people we met after arrival in New Zealand. We visited them many times at their Hataitai home. Both were very close friends of my grandmother. After some years I remember Kazimierz, by that time a widower being for Christmas Eve celebrations at Eugenia, Teresa and Zofia Czochański's house. He was a strong influence on me as from him I gained a passion for ornithology and later zoology. When I was 11 years old I joined the New Zealand Ornithological Society and accompanied Kazimierz in his research and observation trips to many windswept southern North Island beaches.

My family, me and many other Polish people and families would not be in New Zealand if it was not for him and his wife Maria. There are many circumstances which have fated that we live in New Zealand, one is the commitment and dedication which both Kazimierz and Maria showed toward the plight of hundreds of Polish children and their carers who were deported to Siberia by the Soviets at the start of the Second

World War.
So who was he? Kazimierz Antonii from Granow, Wodzicki was born on the 4th of February 1900 into a Polish aristocratic family. He studied in Kraków and Lwów, gained a PhD at the Jagiellonian University in 1928 and become a lecturer in comparative anatomy there and later in Warszawa (1935). He married Maria Dunin Borkowska in 1928 and had two children; a daughter (Monika) and a son (Antonii).
After the 17th September 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland , the Wodzicki's family shared the fate of more than 1.5 million Poles from the Eastern regions: Kazimierz Wodzicki's father was deported to Siberia where he died, Kazimierz was arrested but escaped to Italy and later to Paris where he met with his wife and children. In Soviet occupied Poland, Maria Wodzicka joined the resistance and led groups of Polish escapees through the mountains at the southern border of Poland.
Maria and Kazimierz Wodzicki with their children arrived in London in 1940 and Polish government-in-exile nominate him to be a consul in New Zealand, where they arrived in January 1941.
When the Germans invaded Soviet occupied Poland and later the USSR, the Russians sought alliance with the Allied Forces. General Sikorski knowing the tragic situation of Poles deported to Siberia tried to bring to safety as many as possible (including many children). He signed an agreement with the Russians (Sikorski-Majski Agreement 31.07.1941) which allowed the release of Polish prisoners of the Gulag to create the Polish army under the command of General Anders. At that time it was still believed that the Soviets were holding many thousands of Polish army officers prisoner. Later it was found that in fact over 24 thousand officers were murdered by the Russians in what is now known as the Katyń massacre when the Germans discovered mass graves on April 25, 1943. Knowing of the dramatic situation of Poles in the Siberian Gulag, Kazimierz and Maria Wodzicki were determined to help

as many as possible. Maria Wodzicka was especially moved by Polish children on board a transport ship which she visited as the Polish Red Cross delegate when the ship stopped in Wellington on its way to Mexico. She convinced the New Zealand government under Prime Minister Peter Fraser to help more than 700 Polish children (many of them orphans) and more than 100 of their caregivers. They arrived in Wellington in 1944. When WW II ended, Poland under the Yalta Treaty, remained under communist rule, Kazimierz Wodzicki could not be a Polish consul as the New Zealand government did not recognize the Polish government in exile anymore. Due to his pre-war scientific achievements Kazimierz was offered a position with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. One of his early achievements was the discovered of the Australian Parma Wallaby which was considered to be extinct but survived on Kawau Islands. He also worked on the Gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers, rabbit control measures and on rat control on Pacific Islands of Rarotonga, Takaloau and Niue. For his achievements in animals science he was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Kazimierz Wodzicki died in1987 in Wellington. He was a major influenced on the New Zealand Polonia. He possessed a gift of being able to talk to people from all sorts of backgrounds. He advocated for an independent Poland and Polish traditions , culture and language . Most characteristic for him was his sense of humour - one was never sure whether what he said was meant to be a joke or whether some words just simply had a slightly different meaning for him. He also was active for New Zealand which has been his second home although forced by the times he lived in. He and his wife influenced the lives of many of us . They always will be remembered as friends. their compassion and determination allow our families to start a new life in this country. Maria and Kazimierz Wodzicki were awarded the Krzyż Komandorski Orderu Odrodzenia Polski in 2011, which were collected by their grandson Michał Wodzicki who lives in Poland

 

Przemek Dawidowski

 

 
 
 
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