Maharashtra to unveil Polish memorial

The memorial will be unveiled by Poland’s deputy foreign minister Marcin Przydacz, in the presence of the Polish ambassador to India Adam Burakowski

AgenciesUpdated: Saturday, September 14, 2019, 08:40 AM IST
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Kolhapur: Eighty years ago, thousands of persecuted Polish refugees escaped to India after the outbreak of World War II and made Valivade village near Kolhapur their home. To commemorate this event, a memorial pillar will be unveiled here on Saturday, officials said.

The memorial will be unveiled by Poland’s deputy foreign minister Marcin Przydacz, in the presence of the Polish ambassador to India Adam Burakowski, president of Poles in India Andrzej Chendynski, Maharashtra’s guardian minister for Kolhapur Chandrakant Patil and Rajya Sabha MP Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, the 13th direct descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Two delegations, one comprising Poles in India and another consisting of business representatives, will also be present. Some of those gathered will share their memories of the childhood spent in this former kingdom of Western Maharashtra.

During World War II, around 1,000 Polish children from the war-ravaged and occupied Poland and Soviet concentration camps in Siberia managed to travel to India and reach Gujarat’s Jamnagar kingdom in 1942.

Most reached India via land or sea — in trucks from Ashkhabad in the erstwhile USSR, travelling via Afghanistan — and others by the sea routes along with two major evacuations of Polish Army from USSR to Iran through the Caspian Sea in March and August, 1942.

The then ruler of Jamnagar, Jam Saheb Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja (1895-1966), took them under his fold even as the world fought a war and India battled for its Independence from Britain.

He built camps for them at Balachadi, near his summer palace around 25 km on the outskirts of Jamnagar, to make them feel at home, and this small gesture later saw thousands of Polish refugees coming to India and being welcomed in other countries in the world as well.

Besides the 1,000 Polish children in Balachadi, around 5,000 Poles settled in Valivade in the late 1940s, which symbolised a typical, independent Polish town, and became the single biggest Polish settlement in India.

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