Mick Bienowski: Out of Siberia

Mick Bienowski’s trademark convivial magnanimity of spirit belied the horrific nature of his arrival in New Zealand which was via a labour camp in Siberia which is where he found himself in the aftermath of the Russo-German invasion of Poland at the outbreak of World War 2.

He had the incredible good fortune, as he saw it, to be among the now-famous contingent of Polish children who eventually found refuge in Pahiatua, New Zealand.

Mick Bienowski (pictured at a National Press Club event in 2014) who has died at the age of 87 after a long illness was a long-standing member under the newsmaker category which in his case was due to his work as staging constructor at Wellington’s John Street show buildings which with its cavernous interior was the main large capacity venue of its era.

Mick had earlier discovered the show buildings and their value when he used them to display his quick-build homes, a now much publicised genre of which he remains an unacknowledged pioneer.

Here, at the show buildings, he was responsible for configuring touring pop shows as well as sporting events, notably WWF fixtures which as a wrestling enthusiast himself were a particular interest.

Mick Bienowski as soon as he could in New Zealand took up a building apprenticeship, became a master builder, and in Wellington established MB Construction after his own initials which in turn corresponded by chance with the branding of the Master Builders industry group, as he would gleefully point out.

A keen outdoorsman, he revelled in the New Zealand ethic, yet he was always conscious that his manual dexterity had allowed him to survive the war, and he was keen to take his ability out into the community and did so by instructing Maori groups in woodworking, and also in the practical side of prisoner rehabilitation through employment in the construction sector.

He is survived by his son and daughter.