This post is written in English on purpose. It’s for my Indian friends. This is a translation from a post of polish blogger called Bishop and the original can be found here. Enjoy the reading.
Ever wondered what happened to the children, which in 1940 were taken captive together with their parents from the eastern Polish territories to the Soviet Union? Some of them did not survive even transport – a few weeks of ordeal in cattle cars on their way to Kazakhstan and Siberia. Those who survived the transport have been decimated by hunger and many diseases. Others died in Soviet orphanages, which offered her students a little better than the conditions of gulag’s barracks.
A small handful, however, managed to survive. What happened to them?
Well, these children ended up in paradise.
No, not to this heaven. For most real paradise, the world seemed alive, taken from the tales Scheherazade.
But let’s start from the beginning …
Seventeenth of September 1939 the Soviet army enters the eastern territories of the Republic of Poland. The next year begin mass deportations of the population deeper into the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of Polish families goes to Kazakhstan, Siberia and beyond. Adults go to the gulags and collective farms, and children up to the nightmarish Soviet dietskich domach.
In July 1941, Sikorski and the Soviet ambassador Ivan Maysky signed in London an agreement that restores Soviet-Polish diplomatic relations and announcing the creation of the Polish army in the USSR. Polish exiles covers amnesty and they begin in highly numbers to report to the Army recruiting points Anders. Then the newly formed army leaves the inhuman ground.
It was not until nearly half a year later, on 24 December 1941, Stalin gave the go ahead to the orphaned Polish children to leave the Soviet Union. Polish volunteers went to orphanages in search of young compatriots. In Ashgabat near the border with Iran Polish orphanage has been organized, in which were placed children from all over the Soviet Union. Enormous role in its establishment has played the famous pre-war singer Hanka Ordonówna and her husband, Count Michael Tyszkiewicz. Ordonka traveled the Soviet Union with dedication, pulling out the Polish orphans from the dietski homes and sending them to Ashgabat.
About the living hell of Polish children learned Maharaja Jam Sahib Digvijaysinhji, heir to the duchy Nawangar (Good Earth) in western India. He was a man educated in Europe, President of the Indian Princes, and one of the two Indian delegates in the cabinet of war of Great Britain, where he met General Sikorski. His relations with the Polish, however, began much earlier. During the ’20s he lived with his father in Switzerland, where both very befriend your neighbor – Ignacy Paderewski.
Maharaja decided to give refuge to Polish orphans and near his summer residence at Balachadi (now the state of Gujarat) built a Polish Children’s Camp. When, after a long journey in the trucks, through Iran and Pakistan Polish children (actually looking like skinny skeletons, barely dragging their feet), stood on the ground it welcomed the Indian view of sixty new red-tiled roofed houses and the mast, in which fluttering white-red flag.
In the new house the Maharaja welcomed them himself.
„Deeply moved, taken over the sufferings of the Polish nation, and especially the fate of those whose childhood and youth ends in tragic circumstances with the most terrible wars, I wanted to somehow contribute to the improvement of their destiny. So I offered them hospitality for the lands located away from the turmoil of war. Perhaps there is in the beautiful mountains situated on the shores of the sea, these children will be able to return to health, they forget all about the past and gather strength for future work as citizens of a free country (…) I’m very glad to have this opportunity though in part help to alleviate the lot of Polish children … „– said in 1942.
He then asked the children to pay to him per „Babu” which means „Father.”
Maharaja Jam Sahib Digvijaysinhji 1895-1966
After the hell of the Soviet dietski homes children were in so fabulous reality – in a perfect climate, palm trees, elephants, fakirs, and peacocks. Where there was no shortage of food and took care of them where the truest maharaja.
Commandant of the camp was Father Franciszek Pluta. He organized it into a model scout – morning exercise, then returned the call within the ranks towards Poland. For older children a school has been organized. The roles of teachers took some miracle survived the Soviet Gulag women who came with their children to India. Among them was also Hanka Ordonówna. Reward for good grades were the trips to the maharajah’s palace, where the children were returning laden with sweets. Maharaja himself also frequently visited his guests, walked the streets of housing estates, talking to children and listening to their problems and joys. They remembered him as a very large man with a huge, ever-smiling face. Former camp residents mention that he often read „The Peasants” Reymont in English translation. He was very fond of this novel, as well as Polish folk dances. He was on all the shows organized by the Polish children. He liked especially nativity play in which the scene performed in addition to the traditional form of Hitler, Stalin, and enslaved Poland. After the performances, the actors were invited for tea and sweets.
„I always sympathized with the future of your country. I am sure that Poland will be free, that you return to your happy home, to a country free from oppression …” – he spoke during the dedication ceremony flag scout troop in camp.
Na piąte urodziny syna maharadży mieszkańcy polskiego osiedla sprezentowali mu strój krakowski z indyjskim – jak zauważył zachwycony ojciec solenizanta – motywem pawiego pióra. On the fifth birthday of the son of Maharaja Polish housing estate residents presented him as a gift from typical Krakow costume with – as noted by his father delighted – Indian peacock feather motif.
By the example of the Jam Sahib other Maharajas took care of children and in total about five thousand Polish children survived the war in India.
At the end of the war in the Polish Children’s Camp has been around for two hundred young people. Soon after the Communists demanded their return to Polish. For protection the children were being adopted wholesale by the maharaja, a British liaison officer Jeffrey Clark and Father Franciszek Pluta (who was later prosecuted by the Communists as „international Kidnapper”).
Polish camp was liquidated in 1946, and its inhabitants moved to Valivade – Polish town in India. But before that happened, the train station took a touching scene. Maharaja personally said goodbye to all adults and children. For older spoke, the younger stroked or cuddled to his powerful torso. It was clear that the breakup caused him great distress. Very excited every moment wiped her eyes moistened. Such was the Polish-Indian Maharaja …
In Valivade refugees have to decide what to do. Some of the children through the Red Cross had taken one or both parents. Fathers, many of them fought in the Anders’ army, and now being in the UK desperately looking for their wives and children. Others, having attained the age of majority in India, chose to go to Canada, the United States, or Australia. A few have chosen to return to the Polish-ruled by the Communists.
Maharaja Jam Sahib Digvijaysinhji ruled Navanagar from 15 February 1948. Upon receipt of India’s independence, he held various public functions. He was, inter alia, India’s representative at the United Nations. He died in 1966.
Until today there are about a hundred „children of Maharaja” (or „Polish Indian” as they jokingly call themselves), of which about twenty in Poland.
At the end of the eighties delegation of „children of Maharaja” went again to India. Met with theirs savior son (the one that got from them for a birthday the Krakow outfit) and unveiled a plaque at the Polish camp site.
Social Team High Schools „Bednarska” in Warsaw is called by the name of Maharaja Jam Sahib Digvijaysinhji. This is one of the best and busiest in the city schools. It seeks to satisfy the debt, which Poland has underwritten to its patron by giving scholarships to talented children of refugees seeking refuge in Poland.