Jadwiga Jarka Cooper

Jadwiga Jarka Cooper last saw her police detective father in September 1939. At nine, she had absorbed enough of his stories, methods and outlook on life to assimilate and reflect perhaps more than a child of that age might otherwise have done, given what happened to her and her family afterwards.

Her father’s influence is reflected in Pani Jadzia’s analytical ability to recall events in her life, such as the circumstances surrounding the early death of her mother, the German then Russian invasions of her home, her subsequent banishment to Kazakhstan with her brother and stepmother, and her and her brother's eventual escape.

Pani Jadzia is intensely proud of her roots and patriotically Polish. The walls and surfaces of her Orewa home, north of Auckland, are covered with old and modern photographs of her family, and Polish mementoes. The Krakowski strój she made for herself—at a time when sequins for the black bodice were hard to come by—has been well-used and carefully preserved, another treasured possession. Three bulging files have emerged from the books, papers and photographs she has collected and collated for her three children.

It has been a privilege to record the stories of this typically welcoming old-fashioned Pole. My visits inevitably touched on an emotionally harrowing aspect of Pani Jadzia’s life, and I appreciate the grace of a wonderful woman I look upon with respect and love.

—Basia Scrivens