After World War II, Poland was torn apart by destructive forces. Many people were killed, others were kept as hostages in concentration camps. As many as 1000 children and women were deported to Siberia from Poland. To escape the grave consequences which were bound to arise in war torn countries, the children and women boarded a ship and left Siberia.
The ship consisting of these Polish refugees was turned away from almost every country. No country accepted the Polish refugees. When the ship reached Bombay, present day Mumbai, the British Governor refused their entry. This is where the Maharaja came to their aid. He pressurized the British Governor to help the refugees, but in vain. The Maharaja then allowed the ship to dock at Rosi Port which was under his province.
On disembarking, the Maharaja welcomed the Polish women and children with open arms and said “Do not consider yourself as orphans. You are now Nawnagaris and I am Bapu, the father of all Nawnagaris, so also yours”
The Maharaja built Balachadi camp for refugees, 25 km away from capital city of Jamnagar, which became the Little Poland of India. The British Governor still opposed the stay of Polish refugees. The Maharaja claimed the refugees to be a part of his own family and even provided for adoption certificates. The Maharaja took care of the refugees as his own people. He provided education to all children, he even brought cooks from Goa since he wasn’t aware of Polish cuisine. He guaranteed wholesome food for all refugees. At one time, the refugees protested against being served spinach almost daily. On hearing this, the Maharaja ordered the cooks to not serve spinach to the refugees.
The Maharaja’s kind hospitality has earned him a place in the hearts of the people of Poland. He was posthumously awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the President of Poland. A public place in Poland has been named after him as The Good Maharaja Square. He is also named as Honoury Patron of the Warsaw Bednarska High School. The United Nations, too, has honoured the Maharaja.
– Jahnvi Sharma