Warsaw, Dec 5: Indian filmmaker Anu Radha was felicitated in this Polish capital for "A Little Poland in India", a heart-warming documentary about a historical bond between India and Poland, getting a standing ovation from the audience when it was premiered and receiving rave reviews from critics.
"It is one of the toughest films of my life, but I thoroughly enjoyed making it. To deal with a historical matter is a very challenging job.The beauty is that I could use five survivors of that period and they turned out to be real heroes of the film.They are in their 80s and they still have vivid memories. One person could travel to the location in Gujarat where he had spent four years as a child," Anu Radha told IANS of the two-year project, a joint venture between Doordashan and National Polish Television (TVP).
The 52-minute film is based on the true story of what happened to 1,000 Polish children who were given shelter by Jamsaheb Digvijaysinhji, the then maharaja of Jamnagar in Gujarat. They had to leave their motherland during World War II. They escaped via Uzbekistan and Iran and finally landed in Gujarat.
From 1942 to 1946, these children, mostly orphans were looked after by the maharaja, who became their adopted father. They were given proper education and proper Catholic religious training at Balachadi, near Jamnagar, so that they would not forget their Polish roots.
Since 1947, these children are known as the "Children of Jamnagar" and a book was written a few years ago describing their life and experiences.
To express their gratitude, the Warsaw city authorities earlier this year named a Maharaja Square very close to a school named after the maharaja. Apart from Polish children, this school now also has orphans from Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Chechyna as also some African countries. It is regarded as a true tribute to Jamsaheb's memory.
"The legacy of kindness experienced by Polish children in India is still in the hearts of the Polish nation. This moving documentary reminds us what we owe to India," observed Janusz Krzyzowski, president of the India-Polish Cultural Committee.
"Anu Radha's film will open new frontiers of understanding between the two countries. For a very long time we were dreaming of collaborating for the film as Poland is known for its art and classical movies. Directors like Andrezej Wajda, Krzystof Zanussi and Roman Polynski have impressed Indian film directors in the past. It is high time we collaborated in commercial movies as Poland has become an important destination for Bollywood movies," said Indian ambassador to Poland Monika Kapil Mohta.
In the film, five survivors share their experience of how they got a new life and second homeland in India.
"Our relationship with India stretched back to World War II when India opened her heart to the Polish refugee children and offered them both home and human warmth. We shall never forget the generosity of spirit," Piotr Ktodkowski, Poland's Ambassador to India, said at a screening in New Delhi last month.
(Surinder Bhutani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)