The Great Books of the World – Part 9

“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion
are the things which renew humanity.”

The Buddha

When I heard this incredible story, I knew that it had to be told at Christmastime, as this is a true tale of hope, redemption, and altruism. This is a story of an Indian nobleman who is known as Indian Heart or the Indian Oscar Schindler; his name is Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanagar. I know some readers might at this point turn, ready to leave, these I will beg to stay and hear the story first. No one can choose into which family, or which country to be born, it is how we use the advantages given that make us special or not. This man personally saved the lives of 1000 orphans and 600 women who were on the point of dying from starvation in orphanages during Stalin’s reign of terror in Russia during World War II. What makes this Indian man remarkable is that these were Polish orphans whose parents had been murdered on Stalin’s orders, and he had nothing to do with either Poland or Russia. Furthermore., he persuaded his friends to join him in his rescue mission, and in total, he brought back to the safety of India, 5000 orphans.

Does anyone still want to leave now?

The “Good Maharaja”

The Maharaja’s uncle, Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji Jadeja, a famed cricketer, whom he succeeded

THE FATHER OF THOUSAND ORPHANS

DIGVIJAYSINHJI  RANJITSINHJI  JADEJA,  MAHARAJA  JAM SAHIB  OF  NAWANAGAR

18 September  1895 –  2 March 1966

He was born into a wealthy family and succeeded his uncle, the famed cricketer Ranjitsinhji. Highly educated in England, he spent some years in the army.

When World War II broke out, he was in England taking part in negotiations to end the British rule. Here, he met Polish General Sikorski, head of the Polish government in exile in London.  From London, he went to stay in Switzerland, where his neighbour was a former Polish president, Paderewski, a pianist and composer, where he learned about the dire fate of thousands of Polish orphans. He volunteered to give them a sanctuary in India, in Gujarat, in one of his villages, Balachadi.  At that time no one knew what state the children were in. They had been left to starve. Given one slice of bread a day, in dirty rags, covered in lice, they had frostbite, and many had died already. They were scattered in orphanages across Russia, another problem to overcome.

The Maharaja set about organising the rescue with military precision. As Stalin allowed the Polish orphans to leave Russia, they were taken to Persia (now Iran) in groups of 160 by train, There a convoy of several military trucks driven by Indian drivers waited. The children were piled, dirty and in their rags, onto the trucks. At least they were given some food bought on the markets by the very kind and friendly Indian drivers. Just as well, because they were bewildered, frightened, and crying for their parents.  The convoy moved slowly the 1,500 kilometres, through the rough and mountainous parts of Afghanistan to India. There were many problems during this difficult journey but everyone just lived for the day they would reach the safety of India.

Among a few adults accompanying the children was a chaplain, Francis Pluta. Told by his superior that he had to go with the children, and then stay at the camp in India, he pleaded to be excused. He was already traumatised by having been kept at a brutal concentration camp in Russia, and twice on the point of execution, he had just survived by a miracle. Now, he understood that God’s will saved him for a reason, and he agreed to go on the long journey.

On arrival in the village Balachadi, the Maharaja welcomed them, saying: “You are no longer orphans. From now on you are Nawanagarians and I am your Bapu, father of all Nawanagarians, and I will look after you all.”

There were bungalows ready for them, with a bed for each child, a clean change of clothes, washing facilities, and food waiting. The filthy rags were burned and after a thorough wash, they sat down to their first proper meal for months.

One of the children, now an old lady, remembered: “We thought this was Paradise, a beautiful place, with the ocean lapping our bare feet, colourful, exotic plants and flowers,  wonderfully warm, and safe. We were so happy!” After the medical checks and the cleanup operation, a school was opened, with each child given a school uniform. To make the initial learning more comfortable for the children, the Maharaja recruited Polish teachers but also arranged English language lessons. A set of musical instruments was bought and in no time a small orchestra was practicing and first entertaining at school, but later, playing for the Maharaja at his palace, which was close to the camp.

Having their own orchestra meant that the dance evenings were very popular, and children in their sewing classes made various costumes.  It could be for Christmas or a folk dance routine. Apart from singing the Polish anthem, they delighted the Maharaja by singing for him the Nawanagar anthem. This must have come from their overflowing with love and gratitude hearts because Karolina, one of the saved children, now 90, when asked to sing, gave a perfect rendition of the Nawanagar anthem, in Hindi. And she looks at least twenty years younger, I presume, because of that magical childhood.

Karolina Rybka

In 1947, India gained independence from British rule and all non-Indians had to leave. All the children, now teenagers, left for Canada or the USA, some went to Poland after their relatives were found. Karolina, arrived by ship in Halifax, Canada, invited by her pen pal’s family

Rajkumar Sukhdevsinh, the 83-year-old nephew of the Maharaja, remembered spending a lot of time playing football with the boys from the camp and staying with the children during Christmas celebrations.  “My uncle was by nature a wonderful man. His mindset was to help, to say here is a good cause, a worthy cause, something I should be doing”, said Sukhdevsinhji.

The Maharaja never asked for anything in return for his grand gesture but dreamed of the day that he could walk in Poland on a street named after him in liberated Poland. That didn’t happen in his lifetime. It was only after Poland was fully independent in 1989 that a square in Warsaw was named touchingly after him, “Dobry Maharadza” (Good Maharaja).

A monument was erected and he was awarded posthumously The Commander’s Cross of Order of Merit of the Republic.

The words on the monument that say it all:

TO HONOUR

GOOD  MAHARAJA

GRATEFUL  POLISH  NATION

JAM  SAHEB  SHIDIGVAJAY  SINHJI  RANJITSINHJI  JAOIJA

MAHARAJA  DUCHY  NAWANARA

HE SURROUNDED WITH CARE 1000 POLISH CHILDREN

HE EVACUATED  FROM  THE  SOVIET  UNION  TO  INDIA

FROM JULY 1942 TO NOVEMBER 1946

HE PROVIDED THEM WITH HOMES, FOOD, MEDICAL CARE

AND EDUCATION  IN A CAMP  BUILT  FOR  THEM  CLOSE

BY  HIS  SUMMER  RESIDENCE  IN  BALACHADI

A school in Warsaw was named after Maharaja and the words on the monument expressed the feelings of people in a country a continent away from India.

For those readers who don’t speak Hindi or Polish, here is a translation from the monument, below, in India:

TO  HONOUR  THE NAWANAGARI  LAND

WHICH  DURING   DIFFICULT  YEARS OF WORLD  WAR II

PROVIDED SANCTUARY AND  HOSPITALITY TO ONE THOUSAND

DESTITUTE  POLISH  CHILDREN  POLISH NATION AND THE GRATEFUL CHILDREN

OF  THE  PREVIOUS  CAMP  AT  BALACHADI  NEAR  NAWANAGARA

As it is part of a literary series based on books, this post is based on the book written by the nephew of the chaplain who stayed with the children at the camp. The author’s name is Leonard Pluta and he lives in Canada. The book’s title in English is Father of Thousand Orphans.

It would be difficult to add anything to this heart-warming, uplifting story; the facts speak, no, shout for themselves, except to let Mahatma Gandhi to have the last word :

“BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS

WHEN  I  DESPAIR,  I  REMEMBER  THAT  ALL  THROUGH

HISTORY  THE  WAY  OF  TRUTH  AND  LOVE  HAVE  ALWAYS  WON.

THERE HAVE  BEEN  TYRANTS AND  MURDERERS AND  FOR   A TIME,

THEY  CAN  SEEM  INVINCIBLE  BUT  IN  THE  END,  THEY  ALWAYS

FALL,   THINK  OF  IT  ….. ALWAYS.”

73 thoughts on “The Great Books of the World – Part 9

  1. Thank you, Debasis, I appreciate that you read and stayed, but you were always open-minded in your writing.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are right, Joanna. This was an incredibly beautiful write to share during the Christmas season, a season of love, hope and joy. I was touched by his heartfelt acts of kindness and sad to read about how children were treated then. I’ve heard of Karolina Rybka but never learned much of her background. I hate that we never learned about him at school and I’m ashamed that I never got around to reading about him earlier. As much as I find Gandhiji’s words to be profound and deep, and as unpopular it may sound, I don’t respect him very much owing to his views on women and treatment of his own family.
    Thank you for sharing! Merry Christmas Eve, Joanna!✨

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks for your appreciation!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Joanna, for this insightful post, yet again. It is great to go back to history and be educated on those that have made an impact on society in one way or another. It has been a joy reading these posts. Somehow I forget the present as you open portals to a spelndid past!! Stay blessed ❤️❤️🙏

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Thank you, D, for your as usual refreshingly honest and straightforward comment. I am glad that you picked up on the important Christmas message. As to Gandhi, it is a question of degrees of importance. I can get hurt by I can deal with, animals can’t, so his passionate campaign for them is more important than his family since they should be able to deal with it.
    Merry Christmas and Happy (better!!) New Year! to you, D, too!

    Joanna

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Dear Diana, I do cherish your beautiful view of my abilities, I carry your last -“midnight library for the souls”, and it brightens the wintery day.
    All the Best to you, Diana!

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  7. There is one road to happiness; is to make this world a better place, to share love with others, and to always be in help for those in need. These are the messages derived from this very meaningful and inspiring post for Christmas Eve. Education, love, and empathy go hand in hand just like Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji’s contribution in this respect. Jad There is one road to happiness, is to make this world a better place, to share love with others, and always be in help for those in need. These are the messages derived from this very meaningful and inspiring post for Christmas Eve. Education, love, and empathy go hand in hand
    Just like how Ranjitsinhji did. The world needs more humanitarian people like him. Let’s make this our Christmas wish!
    Merry Christmas to you, Joanna. And may 2021 be a lovely year to you!🎄

    Thank you for this post ❤️

    Liked by 4 people

  8. This is such an incredible story. Never heard of him before. Thanks for sharing this inspiring story filled with hope.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Dearest Joanna,

    What a beautiful topic you’ve picked this time, I’ve read lot many articles around this topic but not many covered the rescued kids and their journey. I really loved the part where you’ve mentioned about them and their journey too. Wartime and its silent dreadful effect on children….the more reason to pray for peace ❤️. This book is already in my list and hopefully a lazy person like me should start and finish the reading in 2021😅.
    ❤️ Richa

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Dear Joanna, your ‘Christmas’ story is one of hope and love for others. This is just the tonic we need today, to be reminded that there are humans out there like this wonderful ‘Good Maharaja’. Thank you, Joanna, for telling us about him today. Warm midwinter wishes from me to you 🎋🎋🎋😘😘😘

    Liked by 4 people

  11. What a wonderful story. I think our wealthy have forgotten that lesson. But, it’s never too late to learn.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Dear Jacqui, you have pointed out the obvious – the only slight problem here is how to persuade them to share? Perhaps revolution or inspiring Speaker/Motivator? Penny for your or anyone’s thoughts.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Oh, Dear Ashley, you do know how to put spring in my step. You are the tonic!! Thank you!

    Best Wishes to you too.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Dearest Richa, thank you so much for your generous praise. I find it difficult to read about children or animal’s suffering.
    It is the third post that I write crying, and even not putting all the horrid details in, not to upset readers, just before Christmas.
    I wish I had the time to find how to put in those wonderful red hearts in.
    All the Best to You and your Family!

    Joanna

    .

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Joanna,
    Tomorrow I am quiet all day, I promise to take all the time to discover your wonderful article.
    In the meantime, I wish you a very merry Christmas full of joy and a lot, lot of love !!!
    Happy Christmas Eve🥰🙏🏼🎄🌹🌝🌠
    See you tomorrow😇
    Corinne

    Liked by 2 people

  16. It is, isn’t it? Thank you, Ramya, for your Christmas-y comment.
    Best Wishes to you too!

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Thank you, Farah, for your comment, so very apt in such testing times. I just hope that things will improve, and at some point in a few weeks or months, there will be a vaccination for everyone.

    Merry Christmas and (a better) New Year to you too

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  18. May I ask, when did you start blogging?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Now, Dear Ben, your very good at maths; here you have a big jump to 8 numbers plus all the comments posted to me as likes, so now you are well ahead. I started 1,11 years ago so in January-February it will be two years.

    Merry Christmas and Happier New Year to all your Family, Tom in particular.

    Joanna

    Like

  20. Joanna, right click your mouse and a box will appear and at the top are emojis. Click emojis and choose. 😉

    Like

  21. Dear Ashley, you are such a Sweetie! I don’t have a mouse, and my cat isn’t any good at IT!
    What shall I do?

    Joanna

    Like

  22. Happy Christmas to you, Corinne! You a very special being. Thank you.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Joanna,
    Your article is wonderful and the fate of this priceless man.
    I love your introduction, which seeks to capture the reader from the first lines, it’s excellent !!
    I did not know this story, it is incredible!
    She does without all the comnetaires, this man is one of those few heroes who by their greatness of soul allowed the rescue of all these unfortunate promised to the convicts and other centers of torture and extermination.
    It is a story which is moreover positive, which feels good, in these troubled times, you are right to remind us of this glorious past, where humanity shines with its benevolence and all its share of light.
    I want to share your article, just readers will have to make the effort like me to read in English or go to my old friend Google translate.
    What do you think
    I find your story to be much more than a Christmas tale, it speaks of this Christmas spirit, it is a message of hope for all hearts.
    The day you publish a book, let me know, I’ll be the first in line for a dedication !!
    All strong Joanna
    And Merry Christmas🎄🕊🦚🦢😘🙏🏼🎁❤️💖🕉
    Thank you for such a beautiful story!
    Corinne

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Thank you 🙏🏻❤️

    Like

  25. Dear Corinne, I saw yesterday your Christmas gift to readers, including me, and now this amazing comment, you asked me what
    I think;
    I think that you are the embodiment of Christmas, your goodness, kindness to animals and humans alike, your talent with words, and
    the sheer force for good of mankind that shines throughout your writing. I can only bow in admiration.

    Love,

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Thank you so much, your comment expressed in this way, is so lovely that it made me laugh. Thank you.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I’m glad it did! But it was a very thorough review I really enjoyed reading it!

    Like

  28. Sundaram, to start with Maharaja and i share our birthday together 90 years apart. It is such a tale and i went into imagination of how long that arduous journey would have been. From Russia to Iran to India- in itself it sounded it Maharaja’s list like schindler’s !!

    Thank you, i kept thinking what if it could be turned into a spirit lifting documentary, very much possible 🙂 Beautiful gift to us readers.

    Love
    Narayan x

    Liked by 2 people

  29. You know by now, how I wanted you to read it because you can see instantly the greater potecial in this beautiful story. The readers’ reaction is extraordinary too because we all desperately need the tangible proof that goodness, kindness, and that hope DO EXIST. This post had the biggest readership of all posts, 114 people read it, yesterday, today more, Corinne translated (On Christmas Day!!) into French and will re-publish tomorrow in France. You have no doubt read what everyone is saying, and I think, your idea is BRILLIANT! Could you, please think seriously about it. Perhaps, talk to Polish Embassy?
    Love,

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thank you, also for a little bit of Sanskrit that is now just mine.

    Joanna

    Like

  31. Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Thank you for reading, and welcome to my blog. There are more interesting posts about India if you are interested. From India – Empire of the Spirit to the last two weeks about Ramanujan, the greatest mathematician that ever lived.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Thank you again and I hope to see you soon.

    Joanna

    Like

  34. Love this, a real act of kindness. Thanks for sharing this, i’ve never heard anything about it before, really interesting though!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Thank you, James, it is very uplifting to read your kind comment.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Thank you, and I hope to see you again soon.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Merry Christmas and a very happy new year Joanna.

    Liked by 1 person

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