The Weekend Leader - Pillar in memory of Polish refugees comes up in Maharashtra

Pillar in memory of Polish refugees comes up in Maharashtra

Kolhapur (Maharashtra)


A memorial pillar to remember the thousands of persecuted Polish refugees of World War II, who had made Valivade village near Kolhapur their home, will be unveiled here on September 14, officials said.

The commemoration post will be unveiled by Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz, in the presence of Poland's 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 descendent of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Two delegations, one comprising Poles in India and another consisting of high-level business representatives, shall also be present on the occasion where some of the Polish people will share their fond childhood memories spent in this former royal state in Western Maharashtra.

It was during World War II that around 1,000 children from war-ravaged and occupied Poland and Soviet concentration camps in Siberia managed to travel to India and reach Gujarat's Jamnagar kingdom.

The then ruler of Jamnagar, Jam Saheb Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja, took them under his fold even as the world fought a war and India fought 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.

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

Besides the 1,000 Polish children in Balachadi, later around 5,000 Poles settled in Valivade, which symbolised a typical, independent Polish town.

Valivade had its own administration with all amenities like a church and community centre, five primary schools, a general and a commercial high school, a humanities college and a teaching college, post office, cinema, theatre, a cooperative setup called Zgoda, fixed-price market and a cemetery.IANS 

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