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Danuta Urbikas’s mother Janina and sister Mira in India (left); Mira in her Navy Scout uniform in India (right)

Scouting and church, institutions that were integral to Polish life, were built in the “Little Poland” that sprung up in India, writes Anuradha Bhattacharjee, an academic and researcher in her book, The Second Homeland: Polish Refugees in India

It is estimated that, nearly 5,000 Polish refugees from Soviet camps lived in India between 1942 and 1948, although researchers have not been able to establish the exact numbers. Multiple transit camps were set up in different locations in India for refugees who were crossing over from Iran to other places. The Maharaja’s gesture was followed by a second and larger settlement for older Polish refugees, organized in 1943. The latter camp was set up in Valivade, in what was then the princely state of Kolhapur and what is today the state of Maharashtra.

The Maharaja already had an abiding interest in Poland, an outgrowth of his father’s friendship with the Polish pianist Ignacy Paderewski, whom he remembered meeting in Geneva as a child. In an interview to the weekly magazine Poland, Jam Saheb coupon explained why he had offered to provide shelter: “I am trying to do whatever I can to save the children; as they must regain their health and strength after these dreadful trials, so that in the future they will be able to cope with the tasks that await them in a liberated Poland.”

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