Exiles: The Story of a Polish Journey
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Director: John Anderson
As an 8 year old, Irena was one of 1.6 million Polish citizens brutally deported to Siberia by Stalin after he and Hitler carved up Poland at the outbreak of WWII.
A 30 year old woman, Halina Ogonowska-Coates, writer and historian, endeavours to find out more about her mother's Polish background before she was deported to New Zealand as a young girl.
Visiting other Polish immigrants she learns of the hardships they endured during the war and how they were separated from their parents, in order to remain alive. On 1st November 1944, 700 Polish children arrived in Wellington in a troopship with returning soldiers.
As a child, Halina Ogonowska Coates knew her mother was different from other mothers. She was Polish - one of the 734 orphaned children, who came to New Zealand in 1944. But is wasn't until much later in life that Halina really understood her mother, Irena's, story - how as an 8 year old, Irena had been one of the 1.6 million Polish civilians deported from Poland into Stalin's Siberia in 1940, as a result of the German and subsequent Russian invasion of Poland.
The film follows her mother's epic journey and also the journeys of other Poles living in New Zealand who arrives as orphans in 1944. They recall their deportation to Siberia to the labour camps and then their journey to freedom in Persia (Iran) before finally arriving in New Zealand as survivors.
This compelling story of courage and survival stretches across a period of great turmoil and war-fare, and bears witness to the triumph of the human spirit against all odds.
An at its very heart, it is a human story - that of a mother and a daughter who, in exploring their shared heritage, step across the gulf that once separated them.