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” is scheduled to be released on 31st March next year. 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:

 

55 thoughts on “Father of Thousand Orphans

  1. The perfect Christmas story, Joanna. I really enjoyed reading about the Good Maharaja. There is always something good to learn. Namaste.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you, Pat, for your kind comment! I love this story so much that I will always publish it at Christmas.

    I am grateful that you are the firs to read it! Namaste.

    Joanna

    Like

  3. A truly amazing story. How is it that some are so kind, so generous and so humble? There are so many awful stories, every day but a story such as this dispels them all. We have to believe that good with overcome. I remember the story. You have told it before and I thank you for re-telling it. God bless this wonderful man.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. All through the post I kept thinking “This has got to be a movie!”. I am looking forward to “The Good Maharaja” to be released in March. Thanks, Joanna, for this amazing story of kindness and charity – a perfect Christmas story. ❤️🙂🎄🎅🏻🎉

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Sounds like the start of a wonderful Christmas tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, Carolyn, for your beautiful comments! This man is my hero and as long as I live his story will be my Christmas post. I can only read this post at Christmas because his extraordinary efforts to save and give the children a wonderfully happy childhood, always reduces me to tears.

    Thank you, Carolyn, again, much, much appreciated!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Dear Pat!

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  8. He was a remarkable and great person. He was in a position to help and did so magnificently.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. A perfect Christmas story indeed! Thanks Joanna for sharing such a mesmerising story of kindness & abundant love❤️ Loved it so much 🙏🏾

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you, Neil, for your kind comment. There were many people in a position o help but they didn’t!

    Joanna

    Liked by 3 people

  11. What an incredible story and what an incredible post Joanna. To my shame, I had never heard of the ‘Good Maharaja’ before, but I have now, thanks to your brilliant article. It doesn’t happen often, but I’m almost speechless, because I realise how much the Polish people suffered during WWII. I read a book once (I’ve forgotten what it was called now) that was about a Polish Jew who escaped from a Nazi concentration camp, only to find himself caught by the Soviets who treated him just as harshly as the Nazis.

    The personal stories in the videos you’ve provided are priceless and Karolina Rybka certainly doesn’t look 90 does she? You’ve put together yet another fabulous post about a remarkable man, and I’ll definitely be looking out for the film when it’s released. Thank you Joanna for giving us this gem on Christmas Eve. It’s perfect timing 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Thank you, Dear Malc, for your wonderful comments. I am beyond happy that you now know about this extraordinary man! Yes, it is a perfect story for Christmas, and as I love and revere this man, as long as I live, I will write about him every Christmas. Your words of praise are of great importance to me, and much, much appreciated.

    Thank you!

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Have a wwonderful Christmas Joanna and if neither of us get to post again before next weekend, have a great New Year as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you, Malc, same to you. I will write before next Sunday but will you read?

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  15. An absolutely wonderful post… I too, had never heard of him, or the circumstances of the Polish children… and bless you for filling a gap in my education… as you said in one of your comments, ‘There were many people in a position to help but they didn’t!’ (however, I am not surprised, since he was of a People not counted then, and to a great extent, not even today… not mention, he helped those not yet of an age to be counted) nonetheless, such an episode on the thirst of ONE human for the love of his fellow man, speaks loudly on what can be achieved if we all could simply… love… I look forward to the coming movie, and my heart melts, when I consider you will make His Story a yearly echo…!
    🇯🇲🏖️

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. You speak to my heart, and the fact that you learned about this extraordinary man from my post made my day! You analysis of the circumstances of the events during the war painfully resonates with me because l lost most of my family, and it meant that I never met the good people they were.

    Thank you again for the words that I appreciate greatly.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Such a beautiful and inspiring post Joanna. Thank you so much. I loved the sheer enjoyment expressed by Nancy Webb playing “Csárdás”. I hope you and your family have a marvellous Christmas and a Happy, healthy New Year.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Wonderful post about a great human being, Joanna! Merry Christmas!🎄

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Thank you, Indira, for your kind comment.

    Merry Christmas!

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  20. What a wonderful Christmas post !
    I wish you everything lovely this festive season🌟🌟🌟

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Thank you, Joanna, for this post on the Good Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, as I was expecting. He was such a personality that needs to be highlighted not only to feel gratitude for his courage, risk taking and maganimity, but also for encouraging others to emulate his kindness, that too, on the occasion of Christmas.

    He had nothing to do with either Russia or Poland, or with either the oppressor or the oppressed, but he had everything to do with humanity, as you have described well through videos and pictures. I salute this great soul, and I’m proud that he belonged to my country.

    I loved Karolina’s memoirs. Historia Maxima’s video gives a fair view of what Jam Saheb had done. Thanks again, Joanna, for this wonderful post! Merry Christmas to you 🎄☃️

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Thank you, Kaushal, for your perceptive comments. After reading the wonderful response from my readers, I am on the top of the world, and feeling that it is the spirit of the great man, who inspired me to bring this post every Christmas as long as I live. His life’s achievements of saving thousands of traumatised orphans melted the hearts of every person learning about his generosity, and made me wholly devoted to spread the word about his deeds. I am more than happy that the Good Maharaja represented India, my favourite country.

    Thank you, Kaushal, again, and thank you for the greetings. As you know I will read Christmas Carol and watch the DVD excellent visualisation of Charles Dickens immortal words.

    Happy Christmas or Diwali to every one of us!

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Merry Christmas, Joana!✨

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you, Dear Luisa, for your kind comment! To me this post about the Good Maharaja represents everything that is kind, human and lifting of the spirit, the goodwill to mankind message of Christmas and Diwali.

    I wish you a peaceful Christmas,

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Thank you Lokesh! I hope you have read my today post?

    Joanna

    Like

  26. It is the WordPress! You did read the post, thank you but it is about an extraordinary man, not about my festivities! Please, Lokesh, read again and reflect what an achievement it was to save so many lives.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Thank you very much for your kind reply!
    Wishing you a bright and beautiful season of joy.

    Like

  28. Same to you, Luisa, thank you.

    Like

  29. So nice of you, Joanna! You’re welcome, always!

    Like

  30. Thank you, Kaushal!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I’m suffering from Common Cold, Joanna. I feel completely disturbed.

    My regular college classes are going on throughout the week. Can’t explain everything here.

    It’s incorrect to not read the post of a (closely connected) blogger whom you’re following. I have rejoined WordPress. This is my first day.

    I thought it would be a nice starting of a longer conversation, saying ‘Merry Christmas’.

    Thank you.
    Take care. :⁠-⁠)

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I am so sorry, Lokesh, that you are not feeling well. Do you have some medication, such as a decongestant? Obviously, resting away from a laptop or computer should help. I hope you get better soon.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Nice post on a great day!
    Happy holidays. …

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Reblogged this on B +Ve!!.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Thank you, Debasis, for your kindness and re-blogging my post. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  36. A brilliant Christmas story, Joanna! It has really lifted my spirits 🙏🙏🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Thank you, Ashley, for your wonderful comment! I am so glad that had time to read this extraordinary story, perfect for Christmas.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Thank you for sharing the Good Maharaja story Joanna, it is such a wonderful story to share especially during this time. The story is not at all as well known as it should be and thanks to you I’ve read about the Good Maharaja in one of your previous post for the very first time.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. 👍🏽🙏💐

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Thank you, Henrietta, for your generous comment! As I revere this extraordinary man, I will publish this story every Christmas as long as I live. You are absolutely right, not enough people know about his noble deeds, and perhaps the oncoming film will help to spread his name worldwide.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Too good dear friend! Amazing and so awesome post☺🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Thank you again, Yaksh, greatly appreciated!

    Happy New Year!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  43. My pleasure dear friend🤗🌹☺
    Happy new year to you also🎉🎊🎇

    Liked by 1 person

  44. This is so heart-rendering Joanna. Thank you truly for sharing this with us and bringing the story everyone should know about to life. I am deeply moved and touched and your music and stories by the people first account was a gift.

    Rather than drone on anymore, I think you will get the impact of how much it moved me by the email I just sent to my kids and and husband.

    Blessings of love as you enter the New Year my friend!
    💗
    We are so blessed to have been raised with freedom in our country and we have had love, peace and joy from day one of our lives.

    Good Morning my Dearest Loves,

    Please take time to pursue this heart rendering piece, written by my friend on the blog.

    While you read it, remember your Nana who lived for a good while in an orphanage with her sister and all of the trauma she faced.

    I love you all.

    My wishes for each of you is to find more love, more joy, more resilience, more hope, more gratitude so we all might reach across the table and embrace those who aren’t as fortunate.

    I would like to propose that next year, we spend time preparing something we might gift to an organization and go and help or deliver it and preferably not at Christmas to spread the joy.

    I love you all with all of my heart and am blessed you are my children and you are my devoted loving husband.

    Thank you for teaching me how to be a better person daily.

    💗🙏🏼🥂

    Liked by 1 person

  45. My Goodness, Cindy, you make me cry! You write so beautifully and movingly, thank you!

    All my best wishes to you and your Family; health, prosperity, and blessings in 2023!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Oh I’m so happy to hear that my friend. The thanks is to you and I’m glad you enjoyed my message to my family.
    Blessings to you as well, always, all days.
    ❤️

    Like

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