In the year of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory, we recall the fates of people who lived during the tragic period of the Great Patriotic War. Among many heartbreaking stories of those years, the memory of the humane feat of the Indian Maharaja Jam Sahib Digvi still lives to this day.
The ruler of Nawanagar, a Principality in British India, saved hundreds of orphaned children from Poland and allocated funds for the construction of Polish orphanages in Ashgabat and India. Thanks to the Maharaja, Polish children found shelter in India in 1942-46. General Andres’ Volunteer Army, the International Red Cross Organization, and the Polish Consulate in Bombay helped evacuate the children to safety territory.
In 1942, the first group of 170 orphans made the long journey from Ashgabat to the small coastal town of Balachadi in northwestern India. Meeting the emaciated Polish children, the Maharaja addressed them with the words, “You are no longer orphans. Now you are Navanagaris, and I am Bapu, father of all Navanagaris, so that your father too”.
Maharaja Jam Sahib Digvi arranged bedrooms with separate beds for all those who arrived, and the orphans were provided with food, clothing, and medical care. The Maharaja also equipped a library with books in Polish for his fosterlings, so that the children would not forget their native language.
Students were taught not only to read and write, but also sports and theater clubs were opened for them. Jam Sahib himself often attended performances of young actors and treated children to sweets.
In 1948, the book “Wandering Children” was published in Bombay, authored by Veronica Hort. Here is an extract from this artistic and documentary work:
“She could be mistaken for a doll, hastily bound from old rags, but inexplicably able to move and talk.
“Yes,” was her first word.
“Pani, there is!” she repeated in a voice very resembling that of professional beggars, and clung tightly to the first skirt she saw before her.
“Yes,” she squeaked again, plaintively.
“Who brought you here?”
“I came myself,” the ‘doll’ replied, and raised her head proudly.
“Just like this,” she suddenly began to move around the hall in leaps and bounds, sometimes stopping, as if exhausted, then jumping up again, as if making her way through snowdrifts.
“What’s your name?”
“What’s your last name?”
“This is the name. What’s your last name?”
“Kasyunya,” the little girl repeated stubbornly and resentfully, ready to cry.”
In gratitude to Jam Sahib Digvi, who saved Polish children from starvation during the Great Patriotic War, the Green Park in the Okhota district of Warsaw was named in honor of the good Indian Maharaja, and the Warsaw Lyceum on Bernadskaya Street also bears his name. Also, Jam Sahib Digvi posthumously awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Poland.