Poland, Czarnow – It was 10:30pm on Friday April 17. Prema Bhakti Dasa, his wife Mayamari Dasi, and their two young sons were returning to their home at ISKCON’s New Shantipur farm after a spiritual get-together in the city.
Home was a flat above the barn where Prema Bhakti and his family cared for the community’s cows full-time. As their car neared their home that evening, they saw huge flames leaping from it, angry and orange in the night. They tumbled out of their vehicle and ran towards the barn; their first instinct to save their four cows and three oxen from the fire.
The fire brigade arrived half an hour later. “Working all night, it took 10 fire engines 15 hours to extinguish the blaze,” says farm secretary Govinda Prema Dasa, assuring ISKCON News Weekly that “No devotees or animals were injured.”
Still, the flames did a lot of damage. Prema Bhakti and his family lost everything they owned in the fire, and the entire building they lived in was destroyed, including guest rooms, tool and storage rooms, and the cows’ barn and hay reserves.
Devotees and friends from all over Poland are showing their support, and many have visited the farm to offer practical help. Some are planning to arrange a secure temporary shelter for the cows, who provide all the milk used by New Shantipur’s deities, devotees and guests. Current conditions outside where the cows are now staying are very cold; with snow covering the ground until only three weeks ago.
“The farm is in the mountains, so pasturing is only possible from mid-May onwards,” explains Govinda Prema. “Luckily, grass and hay has been kindly donated by local neighbors.”
GBC Regional Secretary Trivikrama Swami says that the building was insured, but that it may take some time before the money is paid up. “Winters at the farm are very long and severe – temperatures can drop to minus 30 degrees celsius,” he says. “So we are requesting everyone to please offer their financial help to construct a temporary shelter for the cows, and to support the family who have lost all of their possessions in the fire.”
To donate, email temple president Raghunath Dasa at Raghunath.HKS@pamho.net.
The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed by investigation or official fire-brigade report.