Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) acquired documents detailing the stay of Polish child refugees in India during WWII.
During a meeting discussing the events, documents such as photographs, letters and locally printed journals were presented. Former refugees took part in a discussion about their stay in India.
“The test of one’s humanity, the test of one’s greatness is his attitude towards the defenceless, to the weakest, to children. Unfortunately the Soviet Union lacked that humanity. Communism had no mercy for the youngest. Children became its victims and were punished for the actions of their parents, who faithfully served Poland,” said Jarosław Szarek, the head of the IPN.
Polish refugees came to India in 1943 and stayed until 1948. The Poles were imprisoned during the 1939-1941 Soviet occupation of Polish Eastern Rimlands, which came under the USSR's control following it’s invasion of Poland in September 1939. Soviet Union agreed to release them after it’s relations with the Allies improved, following the German invasion of the USSR in 1941.
“These children and their mothers were loaded onto cattle wagons and send deep into the Soviet Union,” added Mr Szarek.
Polish children were sent for the duration of the war to countries such as India, Mexico, New Zealand, Iran and South Africa. Among those sent to India, the biggest group, some 4,500, lived in Valivade, near the city of Kolhapur, present day Maharashtra state.
“In Valivade these children were taken care of and a ‘Small Poland’ was created for them. The goodness that children received, allowed the previous time, time of hunger, coldness and illnesses, could be forgotten,” said the IPN’s head.
Mr. Szarek stressed that Poland is thankful to the people of India who helped Polish refugees decades ago. The Ambassador of India attended the presentation. In 2017 a memorial to the people who helped Polish refugees in India was unveiled in Warsaw.