Polish nationals, who were offered shelter as survivors of World War-II at camp Balachadi in Jamnagar in the early 1940s by Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja, the then ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Nawanagar, will on Sunday visit the camp, which has been converted into a Sainik School. This will be part of commemorative events organised in Jamnagar and Balachadi’s Sainik School by the Polish embassy in India to mark 100 years of Poland regaining Independence.
Around 1,000 Polish children, many of them orphans, were hosted at camp Balachadi — the seaside summer resort of the then ruler — after they were allowed to leave the Soviet Union as part of an amnesty in 1942 until their return to Poland in 1946 after the end of the war.
Six of the survivors visited Jamnagar on Friday evening to participate in the events. Adam Burakowski, the Polish Ambassador to India who will preside over the events, has also arrived in Jamnagar. “Proud to be here in Jamnagar with #IIWW Survivors from #Poland who spent time of war in #India after escaping from Soviet Syberian Gulag. There were refugee camps in Balachadi and Valivade,” he tweeted.
The Balachadi camp was in 1961 converted into a Sainik School, which also has a plaque commemorating the Polish children’s stay, gifted by the survivors.
The survivors spoke to the media on Saturday, expressing gratitude to the then Maharaja. Chendzynski, the president of Poles in India Association, spoke about life in the camps in Valivade and Balachadi and the hospitality of the erstwhile ruler and local communities towards Polish children. The Polish nationals also sang songs that they learnt during their stay in Balachadi.
Wieslaw Stypula, a survivor who has authored two books about his life in Balachadi camp, talked about the bond between Polish children and local staff. “It made us feel at home. It was our little Poland in India,” he said.
Bartosz, another survivor, said, “We will be forever grateful.”
Six private schools in Warsaw have been named after the Maharaja and a public square in the Polish capital is also dedicated to the erstwhile ruler, Gutowski, a Polish national, said.
The Embassy of Poland will on Sunday organise a commemorative event at the town hall in Jamnagar.
State Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama will participate in the event and the survivors will visit Balachadi in the evening.