Archangel’s remarkable story

Mary Zurakowski of Archangel Wines. (Photo: Christine Austin)

Archangel is a 23 ha wine estate at Queensberry, about 15 minutes’ drive south of Wanaka in Central Otago. Eleven hectares of the estate has been planted with pinot noir vines (70%) with the balance devoted to equal areas of pinot gris, riesling and chardonnay. Although they plan to build a winery, wines are currently being made offsite by well known local winemaker, Peter Bartle.

It’s a poignant story of incredible hardship, hope, love, survival and a very happy ending.

The winery was founded by Mary and Ian Zurakowski and managed with the help of their son, Zenek who related the remarkable story which led to his parents’ marriage, and ultimately, to their move to New Zealand to become wine producers.

The story began in 1940 when two young girls, Stefania and Halina, were forced from their homes in war-torn Poland and shipped to a labour camp in Arkhangelsk, Siberia. After enduring 18 months of incredible hardship they travelled from Siberia to Africa where they were kept in a refugee settlement camp. Eventually, British National Defence officials arrived in Africa seeking recruits to help rebuild Britain after the war. Both girls enlisted into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and were shipped to an RAF base in England. That’s where they first met each other and became life-long friends.

The RAF base in Nottinghamshire was home to several Polish Airforce Squadrons. Stefania and Halina met and married two Polish spitfire pilots. Both couples remained good friends. One couple had a son called Ian, the other a daughter called Mary. The children grew up, fell in love, married and moved to New Zealand where they started a winery christened after the location of a Siberian labour camp.

When Mary Zurakowski tells her story to winery visitors most shed a tear. It’s a poignant story of incredible hardship, hope, love, survival and a very happy ending.

Visit the Archangel Wines website here.

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