‘THE JAM SAHEB’S OF­FER WAS GOOD FOR EV­ERY­BODY. JAM­NA­GAR WAS FAR FROM ANY PO­LIT­I­CAL CEN­TRE, SO IT WOULD NOT RE­MAIN IN FO­CUS.’

JOUR­NEY TO IN­DIA

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Nation -

Josephine Salva learnt to sing in Gu­jarati; where Zbig­niew Bar­tosz, aged 8, learnt how to be pop­u­lar.

“The Ma­haraja vis­ited our camp with his pock­ets full of tof­fees, which I was en­trusted to dis­trib­ute…. I have never had so many friends,” re­calls Bar­tosz, now 74.

The Pol­ish chil­dren met the Jam

Saheb’s chil­dren dur­ing fes­ti­val days.

Says Her­shad Ku­mari, the Jam Saheb’s el­dest daugh­ter: “We would meet them when we went to spend our sum­mers in Balachadi from Jam­na­gar. They would also come over dur­ing my fa­ther’s and brother’s birth­days. When they ar­rived in Balachadi they were in bad shape due to mal­nu­tri­tion, disease, the ar­du­ous travel, but they slowly re­cov­ered.” The Jam Saheb told the chil­dren he was the fa­ther of the peo­ple of Nawana­gar, so he was also their fa­ther. The chil­dren called him ‘Bapu’. On the days they were feel­ing cheeky, they called him ‘the Big Jam’ – but never, of course, to his face.

THE OTHER LIVES OF POLITI­CIANS We would go swim­ming and from the Balachadi beach look up at the Ma­haraja’s palace on the hill. JOSEPHINE NOWICKA SALVA re­turned to Balachadi 72 years af­ter leav­ing it in 1946. She died a week af­ter her visit. As I was grow­ing up, fa­ther told me sto­ries about jun­gles. Jam­na­gar seemed like Jun­gle Book... We got gifts from in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions. Some­times we were sent in­stru­ments we didn’t know how to play. The Ma­haraja brought teach­ers from the mil­i­tary band to teach us.

Pol­ish chil­dren such as Gutowski, Stypula and Salva made their way from the USSR to Balachadi as World War II raged in Europe. Pol­ish lead­ers in Lon­don be­gan to per­suade the Bri­tish govern­ment to con­vince the Sovi­ets to re­lease the fam­i­lies of Pol­ish sol­diers and evac­u­ate them to safer ar­eas. [Af­ter Nazi Ger­many’s at­tack on the USSR in 1941, it joined the Al­lies.]

In­dia, then a Bri­tish colony, was sug­gested as a pos­si­ble des­ti­na­tion. But it was eas­ier said than done. The evac­u­a­tion of chil­dren of Pol­ish sol­diers forced to serve the Soviet Union would mean for the Sovi­ets, a PR fail­ure. Their chil­dren, once free, would carry tales of suf­fer­ing and hard­ship. For the Bri­tish govern­ment, it would be a huge fi­nan­cial in­con­ve­nience.

The book, Poles in In­dia 1942-1948, based on archival doc­u­ments, quotes an ex­tract of a let­ter from the Bri­tish Min­is­ter of State in Cairo to his For­eign Of­fice in Lon­don in 1942: “…. Ac­tion must be taken to stop these peo­ple from leav­ing the USSR be­fore we are ready to re­ceive them (and then only at the rate we are able to re­ceive and ship them away from the head of the Per­sian Gulf) how­ever many die in con­se­quence.”

It was at around this time that the JamSa­heb stepped in. With his friends in other princely states, he raised ~600,000 be­tween 1942-45 to build the Balachadi camp. The camp had more than 60 build­ings, in­clud­ing a chapel, laun­dry rooms, a stage to hold Pol­ish cul­tural pro­grammes, a com­mu­nity cen­tre to hold Satur­day evening dances for grow­ing adults, plus sports grounds.

As the head of a princely state in Bri­tish In­dia, the Jam Saheb had a mea­sure of au­ton­omy and he was go­ing to use it. “The Jam Saheb’s of­fer for the kids was good for ev­ery­body. Jam­na­gar was far from any po­lit­i­cal cen­tre,” says Pol­ish am­bas­sador to In­dia Adam Bu­rakowski on the side­lines of the event ‘Gen­er­a­tion to Gen­er­a­tions’, co-or­gan­ised by the Pol­ish em­bassy in Jam­na­gar re­cently. The other or­gan­iser

COUR­TESY: JOZIA NOWICKA

Ev­ery time the Ma­haraja (left, in black coat, at a pro­duc­tion of ‘Cin­derella’) vis­ited the chil­dren’s camp for a pro­gramme, he do­nated ~1,001. The ex­tra ru­pee, he ex­plained, was a de­posit for the next suc­cess­ful show.

AMAL KS/ HTK

AMAL KS/ HT

COUR­TESY: WIESLAW STYPULA

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