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.