Can I thank the Ambassador for making this special visit to celebrate what is an important occasion not only for the Polish community but also for the city.
I remember the celebrations of 145 years of Polish settlement back in 2017 – it feels like more than 5 years ago, but that is a reflection of the times we have been living in.
Our city has lived and breathed crisis for over a decade and we know the effects of the disruption this causes people’s lives.
And when we look to your side of the world and the memories that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine must be invoking, and the generosity of the Polish people to their neighbours, all I can say is our hearts are with the Polish people as they are with the people of Ukraine at this time.
We have experienced here in our city, man’s inhumanity to man, and I truly hope for the sake of us all that there is a generation of leaders coming who will say no more – no more violence, no more war.
A celebration of this magnitude - 150 years since Polish settlers first came to Aotearoa New Zealand - is something of which the Polish community can be very proud.
You have truly made your mark.
I loved the fact that we were able to celebrate the market gardening tradition that transformed the peat marshes of Marshlands to the food basket of our city, with the naming of Polish Settlers Place and the commemorative plaque we unveiled five years ago.
I loved joining you that year in Akaroa at the Church of Saint Patrick built in 1865 just seven years before the first Polish settlers arrived in Lyttelton.
When we think back to what it must have been like to arrive here with no knowledge of English, and the success that we celebrate today, it is clear that they were a determined and driven group.
And this is very much reinforced by the numbers of people who live here who are descendants of the original group.
Your Polish heritage and cultural and national identity have survived through times where it wasn’t as easy to maintain unique identities, culture, language or faith. The social pressures that drive assimilation were high back then and, in some respects, remain so for many migrants and refugees the world over.
I would like to commend the ‘Between the Rivers Trust’ and the Polish Association for keeping this connection between Christchurch and Poland alive and active.
And thank you to Winsome Dormer for your incredible leadership as the Honorary Consul for Poland. You have been enormously generous in promoting the special relationship we can all feel today.
And thank you for allowing me to share in so many occasions with the Polish community of Ōtautahi Christchurch. It has been an honour and a privilege.
Congratulations on your anniversary, as we look forward to the future with a wish for the peaceful resolution of the conflict that I know troubles us all from the part of the world from where your community’s journey commenced 150 years ago.