WW2 Polish survivors owe their lives to this Maharaja

Wonder why the Jam Saheb Digvijay Sinhji School of Warsaw in Poland is named so? Well, Digvijay Singh was once the king of Nawanagar in India. And the story goes way back to before World War 2, when Hitler attacked Poland in 1941.

A ship of refugees sailed away from Poland containing 500 women and 200 children. They were told to go to whichever country that would accept them. They were refused entry in Seychelles, Turkmenistan, Iran, Karachi, and even in Bombay. Many had died on the voyage, and the rest did not have enough food and water to stay alive for long. Just when they had lost all hope, Digvijay Singh found out about them and, concerned, gave them permission to port in Nawanagar.

“Don’t consider yourselves orphans. You are now Nawanagaris and I am Bapu, the father of all Nawanagaris, including yourselves,” he said. He gave them shelter and free education for the children. He visited them regularly and learned a lot about their culture. They went back to their homes after the war and Digvijay Singh gave them a personal sendoff at the railway station in tears.

To this day, their descendants still come to Nawanagar to visit the Maharaja’s palace and remember their ancestors. Polish newspapers publish articles about him every year. Many roads in Poland are named after him. The school in Warsaw contains many photographs and paintings of him with the Polish refugees.

It is very upsetting that most of us don’t even know who Digvijay Singhji is. His tolerance, his compassion, and his humanitarian nature, while remembered in Poland, has been forgotten in our own country. So let us celebrate this wonderful man and teach our children the values that he lived by.

Author : Kavitha Kannan | Teacher @ BVM International School