Call for Polish state honour for former Indian maharaja

Thousands of Poles were exiled to the most inhospitable parts of then USSR after the Red Army had invaded Poland in 1939 under the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. But once the Nazis under Hitler invaded the USSR in August 1941, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin freed many of those capitives. Unable to return to their motherland, Polish children and their families from Ashkhabad and Samarkand were offered asylum by Jam Saheb Digvijaysinhji in his state of Jamnagar in what is now Gujarat.

From 1942 to 1946 these children lived in Kathiawar Peninsula, not far from the summer residence of Maharaja Jam Saheb, and in Poland till this day they are known as the "Children of Jamnagar". Whenever any Indian president comes to Poland on a state visit, the survivors of this association calls on the Indian dignitary to express their gratitude.

To commemorate Jam Saheb's memory and his act of generosity, these experts from the Polish-Asian Studies at Warsaw University have now requested the president to decorate the maharaja posthumously. Jam Saheb had died way back in 1966.

In their petition to the President Komorowski they have mentioned:" For several years the Maharaja disinterestedly provided shelter, food and fatherly care to many children who were freed by then USSR but could not  return to war-torn Europe and would not have been able to survive with out his timely help. The noble gesture has not been commemorated by the Polish state till this day. Therefore, we request you that our nation should award the Maharaja with the Order of Polonia Restituta."

The Indo-Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IPCCI) , the main organisation that promotes trade and friendship between the two countries, has also supported the petition. IPCCI president J. J. Singh told IANS: "With the  Polish prime minister's official visit to India, relations between the countries have improved greatly and it is high time the Polish president also decorates the late maharaja. It will be a right step in the right direction."

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