Reuniting families since 1934

Galina Bogatiroff, aged 11 from Russia, was reunited with her family on 16 January 1934 after being separated from her parents since she was a baby. The search for her family took five years.

A number of national societies, including the New Zealand Red Cross Society helped bring Galina to New Zealand where she then lived with her parents in Foxton.

Her parents had fled from Russia when she was a baby due to the Russian Revolution, Galina was sick and unable to travel so was left in the care of relatives in Russia. The Melbourne newspaper the Argus reported on 12 January 1934 that Galina knew very little about her life story after the revolution. All she knew was what she had been told by relatives.

"My auntie has told me of those terrible days. To save their lives my mother and father had to escape. I was then only a baby. They were, I am told, faced with a terrible journey of about 4,000 miles through the bleak snow," Galina told the reporter through an interpreter.

"They suffered hardships, and I fell ill. I was too ill to go any further. They would have died if they had stayed with me, and I, too, would have died; so they left me to the care of friendly people who promised to protect me. Escaping from Russia, they finally found themselves in the beautiful country that I am now going to."

Galina's arrival in Wellington was well publicised with hundreds turning up at the dock to welcome her to New Zealand. Wellington secretary Malcolm Galloway was also there to greet here and had rehearsed a speech in Russian for Galina. The New Zealand Herald reported on 17 January 1934 that Galina cried softly as she was reunited with her parents.

"Then in Russian, she asked them a question indicative of bewilderment. But this feeling of doubt, if it really existed at all, was soon dissolved in smiles of joy," reported the New Zealand Herald, 17 January 1934.

The journey to New Zealand was by boat, and as one can imagine in those days very long. Galina was found in the Siberian town of Barnau, from there she travelled to Vladivostok, Japan, Australia and finally to Wellington.

As Galina could not speak English her trip was very solitary until she came across two fellow Russians travelling to Wellington who spoke her local dialect. The two travellers helped Galina learn English and regale other passengers with daily life in Soviet Russia.

In an interview with Auckland Star, 18 January 1934, Galina talked about her education in Russia. In New Zealand, she started school in Foxton at Standard III (Year 7), however in Russia she was studying on level with Form One (Year 9) in New Zealand. The two priorities at school were arithmetic and physics, she had also been learning mechanics and carpentry.

If she had stayed in Russia, the plan was for her to attend four more years of school, before going to university to train as a pilot.

Butter, sugar, Christmas trees and stockings were just some of the cultural shocks she experienced on her journey to New Zealand. However, as the picture shows, after just a few weeks Galina was quite at home in Foxton.