Reunion of Polish Refugees living in Valivade 1942-1942, Held in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India from March 1 – 7, 2014.
The trip to India took place from March 1 to 7, 2014. Attached is the speech I made on March 5, 2014 in Kolhapur during a ceremony at the Monument of Thanks [built by the Association of Poles in India 1942-48 in gratitude to Their Indian hosts]. Among the representatives gathered at this event were: ministers Jan S. Ciechanowski and Andrzej Kunert for Poland, some of our Polish Indians”, and Col. Gaikwad for the Indians
Address given by Andrzej Chendyński (President, Association of Poles in India 1942-1948, Poland) on March 4, 2014.
Dear Indian Friends;
Poland has come here to Kolhapur – Poles from Poland and many other countries of the world. Poles from Australia, South Africa, England and the U.S.A. have come to thank you, dear friends, for extending your hospitality to us Polish refugees and exiles during the years of WWII and after its close, the years 1943-48.
How is it that we found ourselves here in Valivade, Kolhapur?
In 1939 WWII broke out. Our country was attacked by the Nazi Germany from the West and the Soviet Union from the east. During the years 1940-41, mass deportations to Siberia and Kazakhstan of over 1 million Poles took place. Under inhuman conditions, thousands died there. I lost my mother and two brothers there.
In 1942, the Polish Army of Gen. Władysław of Anders, on being evacuated from the U.S.S.R., took with them 40,000 children, youth and women to Iran. The civilians were initially housed in camps in Tehran and then transferred to the Country Club and Malir Camps near Karachi. Subsequently, they were sent to various countries which had agreed to take them. Already in 1942, India was the first country to extend an invitation to the Poles. The largest settlement-town in India, with population of over 5,000 children, youth and women, came into being in Valivade-Kolhapur. During this time, their fathers, brothers and husbands battled the German foe in places like Italy, where The Maratha Light Infantry Regiment from Kolhapur also fought.
The settlement in Valivade came into being in July 1943; its first inhabitants being the children from the orphanage in Karachi-Malir. Next, about one half of the children from Balachadi [Polish Children’s Camp] were transferred to Valivade up until 1944. After the closing of the camp in Balachadi in 1946, the remainder of the children and personnel from that camp were brought to Valivade. Following the closure of the Country Club in Karachi in 1945 and the transfer of its remaining residents, the Valivade Settlement numbered over 5,000 inhabitants, with 50% of them children. The Valivade Settlement was the centre of the Polish refugees in India.
The authorities in Delhi delegated the organization administration of the settlement to the Poles. Capt. Władysław Jagiełłówicz was appointed the first Commandant, succeeded in 1947 by Lt. Col. D.S. Bhalla, and Indian. All institutions indispensable for the normal functioning of such a large community were established. At first, it was estimated that the settlement would exist three years; in the end, it existed for five years.
The local population welcomed us with warmth in Valivade. We went to Polish schools and belonged to Polish scouting organizations Because of the large number of children and youth, and education system was organized that included four elementary schools, a secondary school (lyceum) and a business school. We received additional training through courses in tailoring, cooking, drafting and bookbinding. We maintained contact with the local scouts in Kolhapur and Miraj. A church was built and a post office, security and fire brigades, shops, a bakery and gardening cooperative were organized. A cinema was built and a bazar was organized. Indian locals with whom we had direct daily contact participate in all these projects.
The settlement was composed of two sections: the orphanage for children and youth (approx. 25%) where there was organized collective care (in a boarding setting), and the „civilian” section where the population (women with children) received money (rupees) and lived independently. The inhabitants of the camp bought their groceries in the shops and local bazars. They also made use of services such as shoe repair, tailoring, cleaning, carrying water and postal services provided by locals. Indian locals taught English in the schools and assisted in the hospital and clinic. Many Indians quickly learned to speak in Polish enough to communicate with the Poles and the post master, for instance, became quite fluent.
When I organized the trip to Valivade in 2005, I met some Indian locals who still remembered us and said to us in Polish „I tailor” „I shoe maker” “1carry water”. [
It was here in Valivade that we listened to the pioneering lectures on peaceful coexistence of religions (put into action many years later by Pope John Paul II) of Wanda Dynowska (known as Umadevi) a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi.
It was hear that we learned about the Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas of „passive resistance” through which India attained independence. We celebrated Independence Day with the Indians on August 15, 1947. Those Poles who participated in this great event are standing right here.
The Indians always wished us the best and a speedy return to a free homeland.
After the war, Poland lost the Eastern Borderlands, the home territories of most us in Valivade. We had lost our homes and had nowhere to go. This is why the Poles were scattered all over the world after the war. The last Poles left the settlement in Valivade in 1948. Only approximately 10% returned to Poland. Many settled in England, Italy, the U.S.A., Canada, the Republic of South Africa and Australia.
We now meet every two years at international reunions held mostly in Poland.
India remains an enduring memory for us. We always think of her with great gratitude. The funding of this monument of thanks in the city of Kolhapur is an expression of that gratitude. On it inscriptions in English, Polish and Mahrati proclaim: “During the years 1943-1948, thanks to the hospitality of the State of Kolhapur, 5,000 Polish refugees found shelter in the Valivade Settlement. Scattered throughout the world, we have kept in our hearts with gratitude. On the 50th anniversary of our departure – the Association of Poles in India 1998”
We hope to build a replica of this monument of thanks in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, in honour of the memories and our friendship with the Indian nation.
Seventy one years ago, the Indians called the Valivade Settlement „Little Poland. Indeed, There3 were such „Little Polands” everywhere in India where the Poles were, in Bandra, Balachadi and Panchgani.
We thank the Indians for their hospitality. We leave you here in Kolhapur Mrs. Malti Kashikar (nee Wanda Nowicka) as our ambassador and we assure you that India has in us Poles ambassadors not only in Poland, but everywhere in the world where the winds of history have scattered us, in Australia, the Republic of South Africa, Canada, the U.S.A. Italy and England.
Kolhapur, March 4, 2014. Andrzej Jan Chendyński
Association of Poles in India 1942-1948, Poland