Tomasz Danilecki, PhD, from the Scientific Department of the Sybir Memorial Museum and the members of the WIDOK Cultural Education Association from Bialystok went to the other hemisphere as part of the project ‘Bolesław Augustis and the Sybiraks from New Zealand. Query and digitization of the selected archives’.
The project was co-financed by Polonika The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad and the budget of the City of Białystok. The Sybir Memorial Museum was a partner of the project.
The research team was made up of — apart from Danilecki, PhD — Grzegorz Dąbrowski, Rafał Siderski and Urszula Dąbrowska from the Widok Association.
The stay in New Zealand from October 25 to November 7 was full of meetings with the representatives of the Polish community, including in the country’s three largest cities: Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch. Tomasz Danilecki, PhD, recorded accounts of Sybiraks and their descendants, and at the public meetings he told his compatriots about the Sybir Memorial Museum and its mission. To his and our surprise — among the gathered were people who had already had the opportunity to visit us!
On Tuesday, December 12, at 5:00 p.m., at the meeting in the multimedia room of the Sybir Memorial Museum, Tomasz Danilecki, PhD, and Urszula and Grzegorz Dąbrowski will talk about the results of their expedition in search for Siberian accounts.
How did Sybiraks end up in New Zealand?
Together with Anders’ Army, 40,000 civilians were evacuated from the Soviet Union to Iran. About 18 thousand of them were children and adolescents. Thanks to British support, thousands of Polish women and children were transported to the English dominions in Africa, as well as to Lebanon, Palestine, India, Mexico and New Zealand.
On October 30, 1944, 838 Polish refugees, including 733 children, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand. They lived in a camp near the town of Pahiatua. You can read about their stay and further fate on the website ‘The World of Sybir’.
Bolesław Augustis — from Białystok to Auckland
Bolesław Augustis was a pre-war photographer from Białystok, known to today’s inhabitants of Białystok thanks to the involvement of Grzegorz Dąbrowski, who in 2004 accidentally discovered and saved the Augustis archive from destruction. The photos saved and digitized by Dąbrowski were published in two albums and made available in a digital library.
After staying in a gulag and walking the combat trail with Anders’ Army, Augustis came to Great Britain. After demobilization, he decided not to return to Communist Poland. He went to New Zealand, where the girl he corresponded with was waiting for him.
The unknown photos by Bolesław Augustis
While staying in New Zealand during the fall of 2023, the members of the Association presented the figure and achievements of Bolesław Augustis to the New Zealand Polish Community. The project team also reached out to his sons. They were surprised that their father was so famous in his hometown. In exile, he was unable to pursue a career as a professional photographer and worked at construction sites.
Moved by the information about their father and the efforts of the inhabitants of Białystok to save his heritage, Stanisław and Zbigniew gave the guests from Poland several dozen photographs that Bolesław took when he was a resident of New Zealand.
During the meeting at the Sybir Memorial Museum on December 12, the photographs by Bolesław Augustis, previously unknown in Poland, will be presented.
Free admittance — welcome!