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Can a happy childhood suddenly become one of the worst times in life? The story of Krystyna Tomaszyk shows that, unfortunately, it is possible. From day to day, her childhood turned into a struggle for survival.

Krystyna Tomaszyk was born in 1932 in Wilno, the daughter of Judge Stanisław Skwarko and his wife – also named Krystyna. Two years later, her brother Stanislaw was born. The 1930s, spent in Sokółka near Bialystok, passed in a family and peaceful atmosphere. At that time, nothing predicted what awaited this family in the future. Unfortunately, this future came very quickly.

After the Soviet aggression and occupation of half of Poland by the Red Army in 1939, Stanisław Skwarko was arrested and imprisoned in Białystok, and in 1941, he was taken to the camps on Workuta. In addition, the Soviets took away their home, so the mother with two children had to move in with family. But that was not the end of their drama. In June 1941. Krystyna, together with her younger brother and their mother, was deported to the Tukaj kolkhoz in the Krasnoyarsk area in Siberia.

Their rescue turned out to be the so-called ‘amnesty’ and the formation of the Anders Army in the southern USSR. It was thanks to the Army that all four left the Soviet Union in 1942 and evacuated to the Middle East. There, after years of separation, Judge Skwarko found his loved ones. However, the family had to separate again: Stanisław, as a soldier of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, continued the battle route, and his wife and children went to New Zealand, with which they tied their fate. Her mother ran Polish orphanages in Isfahan and New Zealand.

As the years passed, Krystyna graduated from the University of Victoria in Wellington and married Czesław Tomaszyka – a former soldier of the underground Home Army and a prisoner of German concentration camps, who emigrated to New Zealand after the war. They had two children, Janina and Krzysztof.

The positions that Krystyna Tomaszyk included in her professional life cannot be counted. She worked, among others with the Department of Maori Affairs, Child Welfare in Rotorua, the Intellectually Disabled Organization, as a social affairs adviser to the Hamilton City Council, the Regional Disciplinary Committee of Physicians.  


She was a teacher, writer, translator and author of many articles, editor and publisher of the monthly “Contact” and volunteer at Khalighat – at the Death House of Mother Teresa in Calcutta. She also headed the Association of Polish Women in Wellington and was a member of other Polish diaspora organizations, such as the Association of New Zealand Poles. As part of the Polish community activity, Tomaszyk promoted the history of children from Pahiatua.

Tomaszyk was the author of the biography "Essence" (2004), which she translated into Polish ("Road and memory. Through Siberia to the Antipodes", 2009).

Other works by Kristine Tomaszyk:

Refugee resettlement and wellbeing: based on the first National Conference on Refugee Mental Health at Wellington, New Zealand, 12–15 May 1988.

In 1997, “But a fleeting moment: meditations on the reality and the mystery of being” : a collection of poems.

In 2017: Polskie dzieci w Isfahanie.

Honours and Awards:

In the 2013 New Year Honours, Tomaszyk received the Queen's Service Medal, for services to the community. In 2018, she was awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by Polish president Andrzej Duda, for "outstanding services in activities for the Polish community in New Zealand, for popularizing Polish culture and history, for activities to promote Polishness and shaping patriotic attitudes". She was also the recipient of a Waikato Woman of the Year title from the Plunket Society in Hamilton.

Krystyna Tomaszyk died in June 2020.

Copyright: Tomaszyk family

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