Friday, 23 June 2017

[] Why was a school in Poland named after Jamsaheb Digvijay Singh Jadeja, who once ruled Nawanagar? [2 Attachments]


Why was a school in Poland named after Jamsaheb Digvijay Singh Jadeja, who once ruled Nawanagar? 

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During the years preceding World War II, a huge number of Poles were taken away by the Red Army to work at the Soviet-run labour camps in remote parts of North-Eastern USSR and Siberia. When Hitler's army invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the USSR announced a general amnesty leading to the release of Polish exiles from labour camps. This was also done with a view to encourage forming a Polish Army unit to fight the German army that was fast advancing into the USSR.

Thus began a great exodus — from the cold parts of the Soviet Union to warmer southern regions of Central Asia. The long and arduous journey stretched over hundreds of kilometres. It was a test of human endurance and suffering in the most difficult situations. Many travellers lost their loved ones en route owing to the cold, hunger, malnutrition and dehydration. The journey stretched across many lands and transit points — Ashkhabad in Turkmenistan, Mashhad, Isfahan and Tehran in Iran, Afghanistan, Quetta, Zahedau and Karachi in present day Pakistan and to India's western coast.

However, it is known that they were turned away from every country they approached for help.

The first batch of the 500 severely malnourished and exhausted orphans had a surprise welcome, when they arrived in Nawanagar, from the Maharaja himself. "Don't consider yourselves orphans. You are now Nawanagaris and I am Bapu, the father of all Nawanagaris, including yourselves," he said. Digvijay Singh was the Chancellor of the Council of Princes and member of the Imperial War Cabinet in British India (1939-1945) who opened his province to Polish refugees threatened with annihilation. He knew the officials of the Polish government in exile that operated from London owing to his position in the Imperial War Cabinet.

Kind heart

Digvijay Singh not only welcomed the refugees, but also ensured that they had special accommodation, schools, medical facilities and opportunities for rest and recuperation at Balachadi, near Jamnagar. Singh also opened a camp at Chela and involved the rulers of Patiala and Baroda, with whom he had a good rapport in the Chamber of Princes, to help the refugees. Business houses like Tata and other individuals raised over Rs. 6,00,000 between 1942 -1945 (a huge amount in those days) to maintain the first batch of 500 refugees.

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The board outside the main gate of a school in Warsaw mentioning the school named after the Maharaja Jam Saheb Digvijay Sinhji 

Other camps were also set up at Balachadi, Valivade (Kolhapur), Bandra (Mumbai) and Panchgani. Singh coordinated with the Polish Government in exile and took steps to impart education in Polish language apart from arranging for catholic priests to follow the religious mores of the refugees. Between 1942 and 1948, about 20,000 refugees stayed and transited through the then undivided India for a duration ranging from six months to six years. About 6,000 of them were granted war-duration domicile that stretched till March 1948, according to Prof. Anuradha Bhattacharya, whose doctoral thesis submitted to the University of Pune in 2006 documents the comprehensive history of Polish Refugees in India.

After the World War II and the recognition of Poland's government by Great Britain, the refugees were asked to return to Poland. However, many chose to be repatriated to the UK, the US, Australia and other Commonwealth nations while just a few returned to Poland. Today, many of the survivors still recall with emotion and tears, the Maharaja's personal send-off at the railway station

Starczewska says that the legacy of kindness experienced in India continues. The school provides free education to the children of refugees in Poland from Chechnya, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Tibet and African countries.

Full article in the link below es/magazine/a-maharaja-in- warsaw/article3360283.ece

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