The Ogonowska Education Charitable Trust

The Ogonowska Education Charitable Trust

(Patron : His Grace the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Wellington)

Irena (left) and Teresa (right)

The Trust has been established to honour and remember two Polish sisters, Irena and Teresa Ogonowska who were members of the much celebrated Polish refugee children offered refuge in New Zealand in 1944.

In 1940 Irena and Teresa, together with their family, were deported from their home in Ulanowszczyzna, a Polish military settlement in eastern Poland, (refer to the map below).

Forcibly evicted and deported by the army of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the Ogonowski family were among the 387,932 Polish citizens held in confinement or resettled into the Soviet interior, destined for work camps in Archangel and other parts of Siberia. In the years that followed, both Teresa and Irena survived extreme privation and traumatic experiences.

In 1941, the Soviet Union granted an “amnesty” to Polish deportees deprived of their freedom and the Ogonowski family began a harrowing journey south to the shores of the Caspian Sea where a Polish army was being formed.

Not all family members survived the journey, with only Irena, Teresa and their older brother Feliks reaching safety. Their parents and two other siblings perished. Irena and Teresa were eventually reunited in Tehran (in then Persia, now Iran) and were among the group of 733 refugee children (mainly orphans), invited to New Zealand.

Prime Minister, Peter Fraser said at the time, "It will be an act of Christian philanthropy and kindness, to welcome those children, to give them a chance, out of the plentitude we have here, to recuperate their health, to be built up into strong men and women, and to get a proper education. I am sure that the whole heart of the country supports that decision."

Life in New Zealand offered both a refuge and a future to these two children, both of whom were educated in New Zealand Catholic secondary schools and who both chose teaching as their profession. They were committed and passionate teachers all their lives, a commitment that was underpinned by their deep and life-long Catholic faith.

To honour these two sisters’ life-long commitment to education and their faith in overcoming life's many obstacles, the Ogonowska Education Charitable Trust has been established to support students facing challenges, by providing grants. The Trust is established with the support of the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington.

The Ogonowska Education Charitable Trust is a registered, incorporated, charitable trust (NZBN: 9429049158564) and is a registered charity (CC58940). Expressions of support, including donations to the Trust, are invited. Please use the contact form at the foot of this page if you would like further information concerning the Trust, or the application process for grants. The Trust is a "donee organisation" in accordance with the Income Tax Act 2007.


Map showing the birthplace of Irena and Teresa Ogonowska (Ulanowszczyzna, Poland)