Poland in mourning

This is undoubtedly the biggest tragedy Poland has endured since the end of the Second World War. This morning the presidential plane, en route to Smolensk in eastern Russia, crashed in thick fog as it came to landing.

The initial reports were unclear and confusing, but now we know that Poland has lost its current President, Lech Kaczynski. This morning’s crash wiped out a large part of Poland’s political elite as, apart from the President and his wife, there were 94 other high-ranking dignitaries onboard the plane.

Among those who tragically died in the accident were the former London-based President of Poland in Exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, deputy heads of both chambers of the Polish parliament: Krzysztof Putra, Jerzy Szmajdzinski and Krystyna Bochenek, the head of the Polish National Security Office, Aleksander Szczyglo, the head of the Polish National Bank, Slawomir Skrzypek, several MPs, top army leaders, church leaders and numerous members of the late President’s entourage.

The painfully ironic, if the word is appropriate here at all, aspect of the tragedy is the fact they were en route to Katyn near Smolensk to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre. Seventy years ago Soviets killed over twenty thousand Polish prisoners of war. By murdering top intellectuals, military personel, public servants etc. they wiped out the Polish elite. For decades, until 1990, Moscow denied any involvement, blaming Nazi Germany for it.

The fact that this tragedy mirrors the events of March 1940 is a very cruel twist of history and a massive blow to a country which in recent years has been emerging from decades of humiliation and suffering. And that’s regardless of what whoever thinks about the President, whose conservative policies and controversial comments often polarised the society.

Poland will need to brace itself for a very difficult period of rebuilding its power structures. Questions will be asked about the incident, about security policies, about the next steps. But I just hope this time Poland will take a more mature, less divisive approach to these issues.

The former Polish President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, referring to today’s tragedy in the forest outside Smolensk and the Katyn Massacre of 1940 said: “This place is damned.”

It’s very difficult to disagree with him.

10 thoughts on “Poland in mourning

  1. Firstly my deepest sympathies for the loss of your President, It is symbolic that in 1943 General Wladyslaw Sikorski died in a plane crash in Gibraltar while trying to expose the Katyn massacre and now your President has been lost to a similar cause.

  2. My deepest prayers to all the Polish People in the lost of these great leaders of Poland. I was born in ’46 and from early age was taught about Poland and how it had suffered greatly during the War. The lost of the Officer Corp to murder and now to this horrific lost. You have many great leaders still and need to come out strong to continue and to BE FREE!!! I’ll always follow POLAND.
    MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

  3. We are so sorry for your devastating loss- the echoes of history here are almost too much to bear.

    We have just returned from Gdansk in March & we know this is a challenging time in Poland as elsewhere. We know the Polish people have tremendous hearts & we wish you strength in the days & weeks ahead.

    Today we cry with you.

  4. We have a great national tragedy, because good people have died and it should unite us in deep grief.
    The deep pain is interrupted by “Wawel” , resulting in deeply divided nation
    The Cardinal Dziwisz supports his entire career on beloved Pope John Paul II, sliding on his achievements, and in addition he & Jaroslaw Kaczynski are creating new 21 century Marshal Pilsucki.
    Polish Church is only for the rich and the people of power as the old Poland before?

    And this is even greater “national tragedy” for the Polish

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