The Second Homeland: Polish Refugees in India, Anuradha Bhattacharjee, Sage Publications India, Pp 323, Rs 895.00
THIS study is not about the majority numbers, but the hospitality of an Indian ruler at a critical time that unwittingly provided the British with a politically viable solution to the awkward relationship between the Poles, British and the Soviet Union at a delicate time of the Second World War alliance.
As word spread about the inhuman condition of the Poles in the slave labour camps of the Soviet Union, Jam Saheb Digvijaysinhji of Nawanagar, ruler of the princely state in British India, opened the doors to the first batch of 500 Polish children arriving in India. This international example of the traditional Indian philosophy of vasudaiva kutumbakam (the world is one family) remains relevant even today in the modern and current context of unrest around the world.
In 2010, when Vladimir Putin invited his Polish counterpart to jointly commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre scheduled for 10 April, there was hope that Russia was trying to redefine its official stance in the Stalin-ordered killing of about 22,000 Polish military officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret police and Stalin’s tool of repression, the notorious NKVD, during the Second World war. Some kind of reconciliation was expected but it did not materialise when Polish President, his wife and top officials died in an air crash.
It was the Western countries and their leaders like Franklin Roosevelt and US President, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain who suppressed information which pointed to the fact that Stalin and his secret police had orchestrated a mass murder. The Soviet-backed communist government in Poland ensured that the Polish experience under the Soviet and the ensuing migration to India and other countries remained under wraps.
The author traces the passage through India of the Polish people who had suffered the greatest unrecognised human rights violation of our time after Soviet forces marched into and occupied Polish territory to the east of the River Bug in September 1939. She met an elderly Polish lady married to a medical officer from the Indian Army in Pune and this sparked off the author’s interest in the subject.
This gripping narrative attempts to chronicle the story of the Poles who found a home in India..
(Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, B1/I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, New Delhi-110044; www.sagepublications.com)