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Warsaw monument unveiled for maharaja who saved Poles

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 03.11.2014 13:35
A monument has been unveiled in Warsaw in memory of the late Maharaja of Nawanagar who gave refuge to over 500 Polish orphans during World War II.

Former WWII refugees in India by the monument in Warsaw to the Maharaja of Nawanagar.Group includes Andrzej Chendyński(1L) and Wieslaw Stypula (2R) Photo: CSPA

The unveiling ceremony in Warsaw's Ochota district was attended by India's ambassador in Poland Monika Kapil Mohta.

She was joined by several of the former refugees who found a safe haven in India over 70 years ago, thanks to the Indian prince.

The monument was erected on the so-called 'Square of the Good Maharaja', which was named in honour of the prince in 2013.

Both tributes were brought about thanks to a campaign led by Krzysztof Iwanek, a member of the Centre for Poland-Asia Studies (CSPA).

The children given refuge by the maharaja had endured considerable hardships, having been deported with their families to regions such as Siberia after the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland in September 1939.

When Hitler broke his pact with Moscow in 1941 by invading the Soviet Union, Stalin was obliged to free 'political prisoners' after pressure from London, where the Polish government-in-exile was based.

Although the principality of Nawanagar was technically independent of British rule in India, in effect, the so-called princely states were obliged to defer to the British.

The maharaja was a member of Churchill's Imperial War Cabinet, and the prince was the first Indian citizen to offer asylum to Polish orphans.

After being transported out of the Soviet Union to Iran, the children lived at specially prepared premises by the maharaja's summer palace at Balachadi, on the coast of Nawanagar.

They had Polish teachers, a Polish scouting association, and they called the fondly regarded maharaja 'Bapu', meaning father.

Hundreds of other Polish orphans were given asylum in Africa and New Zealand during the war. Commemorations were held in New Zealand over the weekend marking 70 years since 733 Polish children docked at Wellington Harbour on 1 November 1944. (nh)

tags: India, Warsaw
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