Four families, the Kotlowskis, Gierszewskis, Szymanskis and Watembachs were, among others, part of a wave of immigration which saw New Zealand’s settlers’ population double to about 500,000 during the 1870s.

Beautifully presented trails of the first Polish settlers to Canterbury offer a story of hardships, challenges and achievements while embracing community spirit and heart-felt determination of eastern origin. Many original ‘Friedeburg’ Polish migrants settled in and cultivated Christchurch marshlands; one family,  Mary and August Kotlowski and their children settled in Banks Peninsula. This is their story.

The exhibition has been organised with the encouragement of many members of the Kotlowski family, in particular, Akaroa local identity Margaret Orr and her son Anthony, direct descendants of the oldest of Mary and Augustus’ children – Antonio.

Between the Waters Polish Legacy in NZ Trust in cooperation with the Embassy of Poland and Akaroa Village Inn presents this remarkable Polish chapter in NZ history. The exhibition is an initiative undertaken by the Trust following the 2017 Celebrations of 145 years of Early Polish Settlement, presented at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, with the purpose to further acknowledge the legacy and to advocate and promote Polish Heritage as part of NZ ethnic identity.

Banner image: Mary Kotlowski and her grandchildren