Rhebus group sees Pahiatua Museum
Pahiatua & Districts Museum was visited by around 20 members from Palmerston North Rhebus group last Wednesday to see the Polish Army League display on loan from Te Manawa Museum.
The organiser was Val Swan, who has been instrumental in getting the story of the Polish Army League told, and worked as secretary for Anne Jaques who spearheaded the operation, also looking after her until she died at 101.
She recalls her association with Mrs Jacques.
“On our visit to the Pahiatua Museum this week with our Rebus Club of the Manawatu¯ I was thrilled to see an exhibition about the Polish Children’s Camp. It reminded me of my association with Ann J K Jacques (“Nan”) which began many years ago. As a very compassionate person she was so impressed about the story that she heard from the Polish Ambassador’s wife who had travelled to Palmerston North to speak about the plight of the very lonely Polish servicemen. Mrs Jacques was so moved, that she and others set up an organisation called the Polish Army League.
“Their first job was to form a group of volunteers who met regularly to provide comfort parcels to send off to these soldiers during World War II. She told me that one of the things that they did was to meet regularly to spin and knit woollen socks. As well, she wanted to help individual soldiers who had lost contact with their families and were not receiving letters from home. They were fighting alongside New Zealand soldiers and other allied Armies in the Middle East and Italy who were receiving piles of mail.
“She recruited the help of the New Zealand women to “adopt” them and correspond with them individually.
“More than 8000 people contributed to the league from all over New Zealand.
Then came the Polish Children’s Camp which she played a very important role in establishing. She herself fostered three of the Holender family of which she was extremely fond of and she actively supported the welfare of the children in the camp. My family lived in Pahiatua at the time and I can remember that my father who was the manager of the Regent Theatre arranged for a special showing or two for films that he thought the children would enjoy,” she said.
Regent Theatre: In 1942 Mr Kerridge approached George Curtis who was a projectionist at the Regent Theatre in Tauranga to be projectionist/manager at the newly built Pahiatua Regent Theatre. He remained there until around 1947. Mr Curtis took the opportunity on a to organise special screenings on a Sunday of movies he thought children from the Polish Children’s Camp might enjoy.
Rhebus members in the Polish Room at Pahiatua & Districts Museum.
Jean Eddie, life member of Pahiatua & Districts Museum Society with Val Swan.