Father of Thousand Orphans

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” performed by Enya (courtesy of enyatv):

 

“A generous heart, kind speech,
and a life of service and compassion

are the things which renew humanity.”

The Buddha

Schindler’s List Theme by John Williams, performed by Itzhak Perlman and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (courtesy of SonySoundtracksVEVO):

 

“A thousand candles can be lighted from the flame of one candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness can be spread without diminishing that of yourself.”
Mahatma Gandhi 

“Questa Notte” (This Night) by Ludovico Einaudi (courtesy of Elliott Walsh):

 

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 the story of an Indian nobleman who is known as Indian Heart or the Indian Oscar Schindler; his name is Maharaja Jam Saheb 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 a thousand orphans and six hundred 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, five thousand orphans.

Does anyone still want to leave now?

Courtesy of Historia Maxima:

 

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 SAHEB  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.

“Piano Concerto in A Minor II. Romanza. Andante” by Ignacy Jan Paderewski, performed by Nelson Goerner and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra:

 

When World War II broke out, he was in England taking part in negotiations to end the British rule. Here, he met the 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.

“Uletay Na Kriliyah Vetra” (Fly Away on the Wings of the Wind) from the Polovtsian Dances in Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin (courtesy of Kalevala Folk):

 

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.

Unseen Afghanistan Hindu Kush Mountains (courtesy of Khyber Khan):

 

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.

“O Holy Night” performed by Craig Ogden:

 

The epic journey of these refugees has been commemorated by a Symphonic Poem “The Journey” by the composer Ganesh B. Kumar, which comprises the second part of his album “Spirit of Humanity”. Speaking on his second composition, Ganesh Kumar said, “As with the first composition, I was seeking a challenging and meaningful theme for my second work. My search ended when Shri. Anand Madhavan drew my attention to a treasure trove of lesser known historic events of pre-independence India (1942-1947), which included the touching act of humanitarianism by Maharaj Jam Saheb Digvijay Singhji, who was the first ruler to open doors to and save the lives of thousands of Polish refugees during the Second World War. The magnanimity of the Maharaj and the riveting tale of displacement, despair, migration and resettlement of Polish refugees from the Soviet Union to India, inspired me to write the Symphonic Poem THE JOURNEY – from Despair to Hope, as a fitting tribute to the ‘Maharaj’, ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Nawanagar, Gujarat.”

“The Journey” by Ganesh B Kumar, performed by Jaqueline Zierau and the Choir of the Opera Halle (courtesy of Various Artists – Topic):

 

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.”

“El Noi de la Mare” (The Child of the Mother), a traditional Catalan Christmas melody (courtesy of Relaxing Harp Music):

 

On Christmas Eve the Maharaja with the children:

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!”

Jamnagar (courtesy of Rohan Vadgama):

 

After the medical checks and the clean-up 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 practising and first entertaining at school, but later, playing for the Maharaja at his palace, which was close to the camp.

“Csárdás” by Vittorio Monti, performed by Nancy Webb (courtesy of Webb Family Music):

 

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

Courtesy of CBC News:

 

 

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

Some memories of the refugees from “A Little Poland in India” (courtesy of Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival; the complete documentary is available to view online):

 

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.

“Walking In The Air” by Howard Blake, performed by Peter Auty (courtesy of NASA Johnson):

 

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

Nonetheless, despite these tributes, the story of the Good Maharaja is not at all as well known as it should be. Courtesy of India In Details:

 

This low profile is likely to change as an upcoming film “The Good Maharaja” will be released on 22nd December 2022. It is an epic Indo-Polish war film directed by Vikash Verma and produced by G7 Films Poland. The film stars Sanjay Dutt in the titular role. Judging by the other works of Vikash Verma, this film will be a worldwide success. I would urge everyone who has the opportunity to support the film, either by going to see it or buying a copy, as a tribute to this extraordinary man.

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.”

“A Thousand Candles” by Svetlin Marinov and Antoniya Mineva (courtesy of Marinov):

 

An in-depth account of this story is given here:

The Noble and Compassionate Heart of the Maharaja Jam Saheb Digvijay Sinhi

 

And finally to my dear readers, courtesy of AnimeSnatcher, a festive wish from the masters of Christmas cheer:

 

162 thoughts on “Father of Thousand Orphans

  1. This is an extremely interesting piece of history I was totally unaware of. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Like

  2. Thank you, LuAnne, for your very kind comment. I am so happy that one more person now knows about this extraordinary man!

    Joanna

    Like

  3. Thank you again, LuAnne. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So Informative…..

    Like

  5. Thank you for your analytical and elaborate comment, after you have obviously spent a long time reading my post!!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are most welcome dear

    Like

  7. Yeah! i have been reading for 1 hours and analysis this

    Like

  8. Perhaps, my English is too complex for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a beautiful comprehensive post Joana and gift to all of us and tribute to the spirit and incredible being Maharaja was and the mark he left on the world! Thank you so much! 💖🙏💖

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you, Cindy, for your wonderful comments! You wrote what I feel about this extraordinary man! With the upcoming film, he will be immortalized and remembered forever.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you again, Cindy. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You are so welcome my friend. It was incredible and you’re so right! 💖🙏 good to reference as well!💖

    Liked by 1 person

  13. No no Dear I wanted to know about this Deeply from my Heart…

    Like

  14. Wow, Joanna, what an incredible story! It is such a shame that he is not very well known in his own country, despite being an altruistic philanthropist with a heart of gold. Glad his story is going to come to light next year for the world to see. Never have I even heard about him before. Providing refuge for a 1000 destitute children who’ve suffered trauma is a straight ticket to heaven. I’m sure they all carried that sense of gratitude with them. Karolina Rybka is a gorgeous woman! I’m glad she still recalls the story.
    It’s such a good thing that the nephew of the Chaplin wrote about this great man for the world to read.
    Interesting musical pieces and a very enlightening post. Thanks for sharing such valuable information. May the Noble soul rest in peace and power.
    An extremely inspiring unsung hero. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you, Sam, for your wonderful comments!! You made my day! I love and admire this man so much that praise like yours makes me very happy! I cannot tell you how grateful I am for writing this because you are young and you write so well. If people like you remember his name he will live forever.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you, Sam, again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  17. How many amazing stories are never known because the heroes are so humble? Thank you for this beautiful account of an amazing display of compassion. It’s what we need to hear these days.

    Like

  18. Thank you for your kind comments! Yes, we do need inspirational stories to keep our spirits uplifted.

    Joanna

    Like

  19. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  20. Such an informative post!! Congratulations on writing this informative blog post… wow !!

    Like

  21. Thank you for your kind comments!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  23. An amazing and moving story that will remain in my memory forever ❤️ Christmas is truly the best time for it to be told. Maharaja made me feel a lot of emotions, I needed to think what I want to write in the commentary … Thank you for inviting me to read it, because it brings light, hope. Nowadays, we need as many such stories as possible … Thank you very much 🙏❤️😍🌲😇 Joanna

    Like

  24. Thank you, Jo, for your wonderful beyond words comments! I am happy that you understand why I wanted as many readers to know about this giant of a man, especially in Poland and India!

    If you can, please, read my tonight’s post as it is a special one for the New Year.

    Joanna

    Like

  25. Thank you again, Jo! Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  26. I wanted to tell you that I like everything you have written and the picture, but could not find any comments space,
    perhaps I could not see it, so here is my praise!

    Joanna

    Like

  27. Thank you very much 🙏❤️😇 Yes, of course I understand. Such stories bring people together. And I will definitely read the new post 🙂 Have a great year 2022, lots of joy, love and light ❤️ Joanna

    Like

  28. 🙏❤️😍🌲😇

    Like

  29. It is by far one of the most well balanced write-ups about the noble and compassionate act of the Maharaja Jam Saheb Digvijay Singhji.

    All your inserts of various music and anecdotes are very meaningful, beginning with the main theme from Schindler’s list (one of my all-time favorites… composed by John Williams and played by Itzhak Perlman). This memorable theme gives a definitive perspective and sets the mood to the poignant story.

    I truly appreciate your exhaustive research and the effort that had gone behind compiling the whole presentation. It is very nice of you to have acknowledged all the artists whose music you have used in your presentation.

    Above all, it is heartwarming to know that the sublime and the humanitarian act of the Maharaj has begun to resonate in different countries around the world and we feel humbled to be part of this great effort.

    Thank you once again for choosing this evocative topic.

    Warm regards
    Ganesh B. Kumar & team – Spirit of Humanity

    Like

  30. Thank you, Ganesh, and team for your wonderful beyond words comments!! I feel such an affinity with India that it comes in my writing about The Ma Ganga and India- Empire Of The Spirit, among other posts, and some of my 7000 thousand Indian readers
    thought that I am Indian!
    I am listening to your mesmerizing music at home, but one day I will without a doubt, hear it in the Albert Hall played by
    the BBC Orchestra!

    Joanna

    Like

  31. Thank you again, Ganesh & team. Greatly appreciated

    Joanna

    Like

  32. The maharaja is a gorgeous and rich word, and this story as moving!

    Like

  33. Thank you, Jaya, for your kind comments. I am glad that you have found his story moving.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  36. It’s just amazing to see, that people are finding more about our beautiful country, and the goodness, and beauty within.
    Thanks a lot.

    Aadya

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Thank you, Aadya, for your kind comment. I am glad that you liked the post.

    Joanna

    Like

  38. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  39. Your most welcome.
    Aadya

    Like

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