25th June - 24th july 2024


Untold Stories is more than a family history research journey. It uncovers a part of New Zealand history that is largely unknown. The aim of this project is not only to tell six family stories, but also to fill that historical gap. By presenting the fascinating and vital stories of these people who settled in Palmerston North, we also want to reveal the complicated and true history of war time Europe.

These people were part of up to 5,000 Displaced Persons who came from across central, eastern and southern Europe to New Zealand, fleeing the ravages of World War Two and, in some cases, civil wars. After the war, New Zealand wanted skilled labour, but with its assimilation policy, it did not always make settling in easy for the Displaced People. However, about 4,000 of these DPs were welcomed at the Pahīatua Camp where they learned English and about New Zealand life and customs.

We believe their stories can teach us much about accepting people from different cultures and the value and cultural richness they bring to our country. If the aim of New Zealand’s policy was to gain valuable skilled workers, then it fulfilled that aim.

The researchers and writers of the Untold Stories are all descendants of DPs and were brought up and educated in Palmerston North. To create the exhibition, we have dug deep into our family albums and papers and had to apply for New Zealand archival immigration documents that are still held under restrictions. We have discovered aspects of our parents lives and heritage that we never knew.  Our desire for the future of this project is to inspire and help other descendants of DPs to write their stories. We also hope the exhibition will inspire you all to write your family stories and patiently ask questions before it is too late.

The Untold Stories project is funded generously by the Earle Creative Trust and supported by Square Edge Community Arts Centre, Freedom Plus, Warwick Smith, Nick Watson, the Pahīatua Museum and the Heritage Dept. of the Palmerston North City Library. We wish to acknowledge the generosity of many community members from across New Zealand who have come forward with help, information and resources that enabled us to create this exhibition, film and book.

Untold Stories team 2024: Dr Tania Kopytko, Mary Zambazos, Mychelle Mihailof, Susie Tsaclis and Bruno Petrenas.