City Secret – Polish Connection

Photo Credits: Glenn Garrelts’ India / Kresy-Siberia Memorial Gallery 

During early 40’s Karachi had a significant population of Polish refugees which fled Russian occupation in their native land. It was precisely during August 1942 and December 1944, when more than 30,000 Polish traveled to Karachi by Sea. They were accommodated in Malir by British Army. After restoration of Peace in Poland most of them moved back to Poland. Some 58 Polish nationals are buried in the Karachi Christian Cemetery Board (Gora Qabristan).

The pictures here show the activities of these refugees inside the camp on a Christmas day. Most of the pictures have been taken by a nurse in the camp. Also check the adventures of Glenn Garrelts, an american soldier, who served as Chief Clerk in the Registrars and Sick & Wounded Office of the 181st General Hospital, Karachi, from September 20, 1944 to April 13, 1945.

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36 Comments on “City Secret – Polish Connection”

  1. September 6, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    Amazing photos. Where’d you dig them up? Please take me with you next time you go on one of your expeditions!

  2. Tariq Khan
    September 6, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Great job. Thank you. I hope people of Karachi were hospitable to them instead of British Army only. If only we could have invited them to stay in Pakistan, what a diverse city Karachi would have become.

    • September 7, 2011 at 6:53 am #

      Indeed. Although few of them did stay back. will be posting some information on it soon.

      • Ahsan
        December 31, 2014 at 9:18 am #

        Back in the winter of 1974 I had met a polish pilot and his family at his home in Lalazar. The gentleman, then in a wheel chair, had flown in WW11 with the RIAF or maybe RAF and had opted to setle in Karachi.
        My late father, who was commissioned in the Hyderabad Deccan state forces and had joined the PaK army after migrating here, had told me that quite a few of these polish pilots were recommissioned in PAF after partition.

  3. September 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm #


  4. Dewispelaere Eddy
    October 25, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    I had an Posish aunt (Irene ?) who came in 1944 from Siberia to India, she marrie there a british soldier (John Collier) they came back to London and lived there till theu died. Is there any possibility to find a mariage contract to retrace her family name. Please response on
    Thanks for helping me
    Eddy Dewispelaere

  5. October 29, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    please can you take me too with your expeditions???
    just give me a tXt

  6. nikhat
    December 13, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    very informative as ihad no idea that Polish once lived in Karachi. i will share it with my Polish friends.

    • Witek
      August 23, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

      We, Polish refuges, only went through Karachi on the way to Africa, in 1942.
      It was a short stay, under tents, in very spartan condition, for there was a vicious war raging all over in Europe and all over the world.
      I was only eight years of age, but do remember locals offering boiled eggs, shouting: “jajca waroni, jajca waroni!
      Sadly, not many had any money, so there weren’t many takers.
      From Karachi, we sailed along the eastern coast of Africa, aboard a British ship, on the way to Mombasa.

      • December 29, 2013 at 2:58 am #

        my mother and grandmother were in Karachi at the same time you were. They eventually end up in Masindi Uganda. My mother was 9 at the time.

  7. Dolores Taylor
    January 12, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    This is very interesting. It has cleared up a question I had a long time ago. There is a polish national buried next to my mother in the cemetry in Karachi. I always wondered what this polish national was doing in Karachi during WWII.


  8. Karo
    March 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    oh my god i got so excited! I’m from poland and currently looking for a good subject for my bachelors dissertation (abt Pakistan of course :)) Maybe this will come in handy!

  9. yasmeen bawa
    May 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm #


  10. Anuradha Bhattacharjee
    May 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Dear karachiwalla,

    About 20,000 Polish people transited karachi in 1942-44. This is the figure given by Late Kieth Sword. There were two camps for the Polish people in Karachi- Malir and Country Club. This is the subject is my Phd dissertation ” Polish Refugees in India 1942-48″. Some children also transited Quetta during an overland movement of the Polish civilians.
    Am looking for a Pakistani research associate for this subject. Want to help ??

    Anuradha bhattacharjee, India

    • May 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

      Great pictures!!! And great website. I am a cultural anthropologist, I have been living in Karachi for already 3 years, but it ll take me life to know this city really 🙂 Your website is really a good source 🙂 I know the history of my people in Karachi quite well, we go with my husband quite often to Gora Qabristan to light candles on these 58 graves. I am very curious about these people who stayed in Karachi. Have you contacted Mrs Anna Ahmat and her daughters?

      • Anuradha Bhattacharjee
        May 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

        Hey Joanna ! this subject has been my PhD thesis and please connect with me at anubhattacharjee2000@ I am looking for experiences of Polish people who stayed back in India and would love to ‘meet people from Pakistan as well. I want to hear all about your family. Please! are you connected with the association of Poles in India, London ? I am looking for all the Polish names from St Joseph’s convent Karachi. I could go on and on but need to stop here today. Looking forward to hearing from you soon. : ) Good Luck Dzien Dobry !!! Please do connect me to Mrs Anna ahmat. : )

      • Ali
        August 2, 2015 at 2:54 am #

        I am a pakistani and living in Poland Lodz 🙂

  11. Anonymous
    July 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    I also want to join you

    • ali
      September 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm #


  12. August 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I am searching for my Grandfathers diary . My aunt let her teacher read and did not have it returned. Czeslaw Celinski who was in Anders Army. It means much to family as it has personal thoughts.

  13. anwer
    May 15, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    Reunion of Polish Refugees living in Valivade 1942-1942, Held in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India from March 1 – 7, 2014.

    The trip to India took place from March 1 to 7, 2014. Attached is the speech I made on March 5, 2014 in Kolhapur during a ceremony at the Monument of Thanks [built by the Association of Poles in India 1942-48 in gratitude to Their Indian hosts]. Among the representatives gathered at this event were: ministers Jan S. Ciechanowski and Andrzej Kunert for Poland, some of our Polish Indians”, and Col. Gaikwad for the Indians

    Andrzej Chendyński

    Address given by Andrzej Chendyński (President, Association of Poles in India 1942-1948, Poland) on March 4, 2014.

    Dear Indian Friends;
    Poland has come here to Kolhapur – Poles from Poland and many other countries of the world. Poles from Australia, South Africa, England and the U.S.A. have come to thank you, dear friends, for extending your hospitality to us Polish refugees and exiles during the years of WWII and after its close, the years 1943-48.
    How is it that we found ourselves here in Valivade, Kolhapur?
    In 1939 WWII broke out. Our country was attacked by the Nazi Germany from the West and the Soviet Union from the east. During the years 1940-41, mass deportations to Siberia and Kazakhstan of over 1 million Poles took place. Under inhuman conditions, thousands died there. I lost my mother and two brothers there.
    In 1942, the Polish Army of Gen. Władysław of Anders, on being evacuated from the U.S.S.R., took with them 40,000 children, youth and women to Iran. The civilians were initially housed in camps in Tehran and then transferred to the Country Club and Malir Camps near Karachi. Subsequently, they were sent to various countries which had agreed to take them. Already in 1942, India was the first country to extend an invitation to the Poles. The largest settlement-town in India, with population of over 5,000 children, youth and women, came into being in Valivade-Kolhapur. During this time, their fathers, brothers and husbands battled the German foe in places like Italy, where The Maratha Light Infantry Regiment from Kolhapur also fought.
    The settlement in Valivade came into being in July 1943; its first inhabitants being the children from the orphanage in Karachi-Malir. Next, about one half of the children from Balachadi [Polish Children’s Camp] were transferred to Valivade up until 1944. After the closing of the camp in Balachadi in 1946, the remainder of the children and personnel from that camp were brought to Valivade. Following the closure of the Country Club in Karachi in 1945 and the transfer of its remaining residents, the Valivade Settlement numbered over 5,000 inhabitants, with 50% of them children. The Valivade Settlement was the centre of the Polish refugees in India.
    The authorities in Delhi delegated the organization administration of the settlement to the Poles. Capt. Władysław Jagiełłówicz was appointed the first Commandant, succeeded in 1947 by Lt. Col. D.S. Bhalla, and Indian. All institutions indispensable for the normal functioning of such a large community were established. At first, it was estimated that the settlement would exist three years; in the end, it existed for five years.
    The local population welcomed us with warmth in Valivade. We went to Polish schools and belonged to Polish scouting organizations Because of the large number of children and youth, and education system was organized that included four elementary schools, a secondary school (lyceum) and a business school. We received additional training through courses in tailoring, cooking, drafting and bookbinding. We maintained contact with the local scouts in Kolhapur and Miraj. A church was built and a post office, security and fire brigades, shops, a bakery and gardening cooperative were organized. A cinema was built and a bazar was organized. Indian locals with whom we had direct daily contact participate in all these projects.
    The settlement was composed of two sections: the orphanage for children and youth (approx. 25%) where there was organized collective care (in a boarding setting), and the „civilian” section where the population (women with children) received money (rupees) and lived independently. The inhabitants of the camp bought their groceries in the shops and local bazars. They also made use of services such as shoe repair, tailoring, cleaning, carrying water and postal services provided by locals. Indian locals taught English in the schools and assisted in the hospital and clinic. Many Indians quickly learned to speak in Polish enough to communicate with the Poles and the post master, for instance, became quite fluent.
    When I organized the trip to Valivade in 2005, I met some Indian locals who still remembered us and said to us in Polish „I tailor” „I shoe maker” “1carry water”. [
    It was here in Valivade that we listened to the pioneering lectures on peaceful coexistence of religions (put into action many years later by Pope John Paul II) of Wanda Dynowska (known as Umadevi) a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi.
    It was hear that we learned about the Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas of „passive resistance” through which India attained independence. We celebrated Independence Day with the Indians on August 15, 1947. Those Poles who participated in this great event are standing right here.
    The Indians always wished us the best and a speedy return to a free homeland.
    After the war, Poland lost the Eastern Borderlands, the home territories of most us in Valivade. We had lost our homes and had nowhere to go. This is why the Poles were scattered all over the world after the war. The last Poles left the settlement in Valivade in 1948. Only approximately 10% returned to Poland. Many settled in England, Italy, the U.S.A., Canada, the Republic of South Africa and Australia.
    We now meet every two years at international reunions held mostly in Poland.
    India remains an enduring memory for us. We always think of her with great gratitude. The funding of this monument of thanks in the city of Kolhapur is an expression of that gratitude. On it inscriptions in English, Polish and Mahrati proclaim: “During the years 1943-1948, thanks to the hospitality of the State of Kolhapur, 5,000 Polish refugees found shelter in the Valivade Settlement. Scattered throughout the world, we have kept in our hearts with gratitude. On the 50th anniversary of our departure – the Association of Poles in India 1998”

    We hope to build a replica of this monument of thanks in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, in honour of the memories and our friendship with the Indian nation.
    Seventy one years ago, the Indians called the Valivade Settlement „Little Poland. Indeed, There3 were such „Little Polands” everywhere in India where the Poles were, in Bandra, Balachadi and Panchgani.
    We thank the Indians for their hospitality. We leave you here in Kolhapur Mrs. Malti Kashikar (nee Wanda Nowicka) as our ambassador and we assure you that India has in us Poles ambassadors not only in Poland, but everywhere in the world where the winds of history have scattered us, in Australia, the Republic of South Africa, Canada, the U.S.A. Italy and England.

    Kolhapur, March 4, 2014. Andrzej Jan Chendyński
    Association of Poles in India 1942-1948, Poland

  14. chris argent
    July 1, 2014 at 12:28 pm #


  15. October 8, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    A great news that in jmy country pakistan there are peopel who realy care.If it is possibel than i would like to see you mr karachi walla in person.A freiend of mine and me have a lot of work on it and trust us you will admire our research on the subject.

  16. Ahsan
    December 31, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    Back in the winter of 1974 I had met a polish pilot and his family at his home in Lalazar. The gentleman, then in a wheel chair, had flown in WW11 with the RIAF or maybe RAF and had opted to settle in Karachi.
    My late father, who was commissioned in the Hyderabad Deccan state forces and had joined the PaK army after migrating here, had told me that quite a few of these polish pilots were recommissioned in PAF after partition.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  17. May 12, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

    Reblogged this on Tina Rath.

  18. Alicja Morawiec
    December 18, 2016 at 10:25 am #

    I am looking for my granduncle Ludwik Swierzb who was one of the 30 Polish airman who came to Pakistan from England after end of WWII. Family still don’t know what happen to him. Maybe he died there and is buried there. I wish that someone would help me to find his grave .

  19. Muneeza
    April 25, 2018 at 8:02 pm #

    I believe these were Polish refugees (possibly Jewish) who were escaping Nazi occupation during WW2. I have photos of some of their graves and a monument dedicated to them in Gora Qabristan. Please let me know if you are interested in putting them up on your blog.


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