02-07-2017 01:30 PM | Lathika Saju | My Indian Dream
The benevolent Maharaja who created a little Poland in India
The Maharaja of Nawanagar from 1933 to 1948, Lieutenant- General H H Maharaja Jam Saheb Sri Digvijaysinhji is an epitome of kindheartedness and compassion. The Maharaja, who was the nephew of the famed cricketer Ranjitsinhji enjoyed a military career for over two decades and continued to receive honorary promotions in the Indian Army even after his retirement in 1931.
Maharaja Digvijaysinh is known for creating a little Poland in India. During World War II, over 5000 Polish children and many women who were brought out of the USSR were denied help or asylum in all the countries through which their ship travelled. The Maharaja, when he came to know about this was very concerned. He set up a Polish Children Camp in Jamnagar-Balachadi and provided them with all the necessary facilities.
The Maharaja took personal risks to make arrangements for the affected Polish children at a time when the world was at war and India was struggling for its Independence. He built a camp for them in a place called Balachadi beside his summer palace, 25 km from his capital city Jamnagar, and made them feel at home. The most compassionate statement made by Jam Saheb, while welcoming these young Polish children to Nawanagar was, “Do not consider yourself orphans. You are now Nawnagaris and I am Bapu, father of all the people of Nawanagar, so also yours”
There is a book by the name ‘Poles in India – 1942-1948’ which reflects every aspect of this story in great detail and also contains personal reminisces of the Polish refugees.
A film titled ““A Little Poland in India” is the first film to be co-produced between the governments of India and Poland and it encompasses all aspects of this heart-warming story that enriched the historical bond between India and Poland. It shows India’s magnanimity and compassion towards the Polish children which transcends all borders and is etched in the cultural and historical connect for India and Poland. It is a perfect example of humanism that the world must know and should never be forgotten.
The Polish survivors returned to their country after a stay of four years in Balachadi. They are now in their old age and still feel that they belong to India as they carry many fond memories of their childhood in India.
This event has been commemorated in many ways, including the inauguration of the Good Maharaja Square in Warsaw in 2013. The Maharaja was posthumously awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the then President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski. He is often referred to the “Polish Maharaja”.
In 2016, 50 years after his death, Poland's Parliament unanimously adopted a special resolution honoring Maharaj Jam Saheb Digvijay Sinhji for his aid to Polish children refugees during WWII.
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