The fate of Poles in India 1942–1948 – a meeting in connection with documents passed on to the Institute of National Remembrance

The President of the IPN Dr Jarosław Szarek took part in a discussion about the fate of Polish refugees in camps located in India during World War II; 27 November 2019, the IPN’s “History Point” Educational Center on Marszałkowska street in Warsaw.


The participants were welcomed by Marzena Kruk, the Director of the IPN Archive. In his speech, the President of the Institute of National Remembrance, Dr Jarosław Szarek, recognized the role India played in helping Poles who were evacuated there from Kazakhstan. The guests of honour were witnesses of history from the Circle of Poles in India - Wanda Kuraś, Danuta Pniewska, Kazimiera Skorupińska and Andrzej Chendyński, who talked about their lives during the Soviet deportation to Kazakhstan and life in the Valivade settlement in India, as well as the fate of the community after the end of World War II. Tsewang Namgyal, the Ambassador to India in Poland, participated in the meeting. He raised the issue of how significantly the assistance provided to Poles during World War II has impacted the formation of subsequent Polish-Indian contacts. A historical outline of Polish-Indian cooperation in saving Polish civilians arriving in India from the Soviet Union with the army of General Anders, was presented by Dr hab. Janusz Wróbel, the moderator of the discussion.The originals of the most interesting documents donated by the Circle to the Institute's resources will be presented, including photographs documenting life in the Polish refugee camp in Valivade; magazines, richly illustrated scout chronicles and correspondence.

As part of the agreement signed on 21 March 2019 between representatives of the Circle of Poles from India 1942–1948 - Wanda Kuraś and Danuta Pniewska and the Institute of National Remembrance, the IPN Archive has received unique documents concerning approximately 6,000 Polish refugees evacuated from the USSR after 1941. Awaiting their return to Poland, the refugees spent  several years in Indian settlements. The largest group, about 4,500 Poles, mainly children and youth, lived in the Valivade settlement near the city of Kolhapur.

Education was very important in Valivade. The settlement had its own church, hospital, middle schools, high schools, a home economics and farming school, four elementary schools, three kindergartens, a library, an art workshop, an amateur theater, shops and workshops. A bi-weekly entitled “Polak w Indiach” ["Pole in India"] with a supplement for children “Słoniątko Indyjskie” Indian Baby Elephant" was published in Mumbai. A very well organized social, cultural and educational life led to the creation of unique bonds among the inhabitants, bonds which are visible to this day.



The documents which were passed on to the IPN Archive can be divided into two groups. The first is documentation related to the activities of the Circle of Poles in India. It consists of the Circle’s newsletter, photographic documentation of the Circle's congresses, editorial materials for the book "Poles in India 1942–1948" and eye witness accounts.

The second group consists of materials produced in the years 1942–1948 in India, but also in Russia, Iran, Africa and Israel. The collection consists mainly of photographs, file documentation, publications and hand-illustrated scout chronicles. The most valuable item in this group of materials is the original list of Polish refugees transported to India, which comprises about 5,000 names.

The photographs portray such places such as: Kolhapur, Valivade, Jamnagar, Balachadi, Bombay, Bandra, Panchala, Chandoli, Karachi, where Poles lived during their stay in India. The largest subgroup of photographs depicts life in the Valivade camp – the settlement itself, religious ceremonies, education, scouting, sport, theater, contacts with local residents and daily activities.

The acquired documentation also includes photographs and documents related to Fr. Prelate Zdzisław Peszkowski, including photographs from the secular period of his life, when he organized Polish scouting movement in India as well as photos from meetings with Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Pope John Paul II.

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