Halina Morrow (nee Fladrzynska)

Halina Morrow (nee Fladrzynska)

The Halina Morrow refugee scholarship is named in honour of its benefactor, one of the “Polish Children” welcomed to New Zealand in 1944.


Halina Morrow had a happy childhood in a town in Eastern Poland. Then the Russian Secret Police came to her family’s home and took away her brother Olek, who was in the Polish army.  He was never seen by the family again. In her life story, Halina writes, “life was starting to get very unpleasant. The shops were empty, and it was wise to be on guard as even the neighbours could not be trusted… The people lived in fear, and there was nowhere to hide.” At 4 am one day in July 1940 the Russian Secret Police came and ordered her parents to pack.  She and her parents were put on crowded cattle wagons, and after a harrowing four-week journey, were taken to a farming collective.   Shortly after, Halina’s mother developed appendicitis. She died, aged 45.

Then Halina’s elderly father, died of pneumonia, after he had left hoping to find work.  Halina, now aged eight and already working for a living, was sent to an orphanage. The conditions there were extremely harsh, and Halina escaped.  She returned to the farm, sleeping rough, walking in intemperate weather, forcing herself to eat grass and dirt to offset her hunger. After she returned to the farm, she was put on a truck to be taken to another orphanage.

A visit to the orphanage by the expelled Polish ambassador to the Soviet Union on his journey home changed Halina’s life.  Seeing the conditions there, he promised to get the children out of the country. Their escape route to neighbouring Iran was a hazardous journey by truck over the mountains via fearsome, steep, and dangerously narrow roads.  In Iran, the children were fed well and started school.  On 27 September 1944, 732 Polish children and 102 guardians left Iran, thus beginning an incredible journey by sea to New Zealand.  Halina was one of them.

More can be read about Halina Morrow’s extraordinary story in her account in New Zealand’s First Refugees: Pahiatua’s Polish Children, first published by David Bateman Ltd, re-published by Polish Children’s Reunion Committee, 2004.


Reflecting on her journey years later, Halina wrote, “What I experienced during my younger years taught me how to survive, and it made me stronger both mentally and spiritually.” She added, “I now understand, admire and respect people that help those that are less fortunate.” Inspiring words from an inspiring woman.

Peggy Ryan

Peggy Ryan

MA Mathematics. DipEd, DipTch, LTCL Singing, ATCL Piano Prefect, Head and Dux of St Mary's College 1949

Peggy Ryan spent a life time dedicated to education which included

  • Taught mathematics at Hutt Valley High for 7 years
  • Head of Department Mathematics at Dannevirke High for 5 years
  • Appointed to the Department of Education as Inspector of Secondary schools leading to Director of Schools shortly before the department closed.

Over many years her family were leading and supportive parishioners at Sacred Heart Parish Petone. Re her late parents – her father (John) was parish choir master and her mother (Margaret Mary) parish organist. Peggy carried on that tradition as principal organist for many years, thereby supporting the parish music/liturgy ministry in Sunday Masses, Weddings and Funerals and various other special occasions  -  becoming something of an institution there!

Her two brothers, John and Robert were  ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Wellington. Peggy was very proud of them. They both pre-deceased her.

After retirement Peggy resided in Eastbourne and later Waikanae. Whichever parish she belonged to she was always very generous in her time and financial support. Peggy always retained a keen interest in the life and work of the Church at both the local parish level and the wider diocesan level  -  in this regard, towards its ongoing work, the Catholic Foundation was the beneficiary of her estate.  It goes without saying, stemming from her early teaching years, that she always retained a special concern for the Church’s mission, with and for, young people.

When her health began to fail she moved into the Parkwood Lodge hospital care facility in Waikanae. She died peacefully there on the 29th of November 2019. Her Requiem Mass on the 5th of December 2019 was attended by a very large gathering of friends, parishioners, former professional associates, diocesan personnel and clergy  -  all prayerfully remembering a quite special lady. May she rest in Peace.

In recognition of her life’s service to the Church and education, the Foundation were proud to set up a scholarship in her honour.

Krystyna Downey

Krystyna Downey

The Catholic Foundation were proud to set up a scholarship in honour of  Krystyna Downey who left a bequest to the Foundation, the scholarship will be for refugees to New Zealand who are entering tertiary educations – details of the scholarship are on the Foundation’s website.


Krystyna served  for many years in the NZ public service, also as the Secretary of the National Commission for UNESCO. During WW2 she was deported by the Soviets to Siberia, in 1944 she came to NZ with other Polish children and  settled in Pahiatua.  She was married to Patrick James Downey OBE  who was a New Zealand barrister and solicitor. He served as the Chief Human Rights Commissioner, and was chairman of the Human Rights Commission from 1978 to 1984. to 1995.


She died in February of this year of 2020 .