The Polish History Museum has prepared an exhibition on the Google Cultural Institute's website which shows the fortunes of Polish refugees in World War II.
The exhibition Passage to India: Polish settlements in Balachadi and Valivade brings to light the history of Polish civilians who at the beginning of World War II were considered opponents of Sovietisation and deported deep into the USSR. From there, more than forty thousand people were evacuated with Anders' Army to Iran. Of these, six thousand took refuge in India.
Polish settlements which had an influence on 20th-century Polish-Indian relations were founded in the small Indian cities of Balachadi and Valivade. The exhibition explains these connections and displays the most important aspects of life in their centres: school, scouting, and cultural activities.
The exhibition's organisers wrote:
During their six-year-long stay in India, Polish refugees had the opportunity for different contacts with Indian society: not only with local rulers, officers, or officials, but daily meetings with those working in the settlements as well. The example of Polish settlements in India is a great lesson about identity – about the strong attachment to Polish tradition (the stronger it was, the more difficult contact with the homeland was), about the will to survive and build a daily life in unfavourable circumstances, and about the importance of education – not only institutional but also after-school.
The exhibition includes photos which document everyday life in the settlements, maps, and documents, among others: Książka Uchodźcy (Refugee Book) published by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in Bombay for the residents of the Polish settlements, a fragment of a handwritten history textbook, an Easter palm with a peacock’s feather, and entries written by Indian scouts in a Polish girl scout diary in honour of Indian independence day.
The Google Cultural Institute exhibition is based on one which took place in the UN headquarters from 22nd to 29th September 2016, and is available in both Polish and English.
Source: Organisers materials, edited by AS 29th Sept 2016.