This morning’s shocking news of the death of President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of other prominent Poles in a plane crash near Smolensk is a tragedy for this country. Everybody at Polandian offers their deepest sympathies to the people of Poland and especially to those directly effected by these deaths. The fact that the crash happened as the group were on their way to take part in ceremonies commemorating the Katyn Massacre adds immeasurably to the sadness. The name Katyn, already blackened in the collective consciousness of the Polish people, will forever be associated with another national catastrophe from this day.
The sudden and violent death of a head of state is a severe trial for any nation. That such a large group of other leading figures in Polish society should be killed at the same time will make this a doubly testing time for Poland. Questions are already being asked about responsibility. The aging Tupelov 154 in which the party were flying is bound to come under suspicion, although there is no evidence that it has a worse safety record than other, comparable aircraft.
It has to be said that Kaczynski was not a popular figure among our readers, but nobody would have wished such a sudden and appalling end to his political career.
[later edit by scatts] – I would obviously echo Jamie’s words above. The President was the most senior figure on the aircraft but the list of lost Poles is staggering and not just politicians but the military, religious leaders, historians and many others. Impossible to pick anyone out but my wife is particularly upset by the loss of so many strong & popular female figures as there were so few of them to begin with. Twelve hours on from the tragedy I find a few key points keep repeating themselves in my mind:
1/ Nobody would choose this way out but it does mean Mr. Kaczynski will be remembered very differently to the way he might have been had this not happened.
2/ Excellent opportunity for Mr. Komorowski to secure (or not) his position as the next President of the Republic of Poland.
3/ Why oh why were so many important people on the one plane? The risk profile for this flight was just ridiculous – not the best of planes, crappy airport, poor weather conditions, very early morning and yet crammed full of Poland’s finest. I heard a story that there was another plane doing the same route but that one was full of media people, is that true? If so, why not as a minimum have each plane carry half and half dignitaries and media folk? Not that media lives are less valuable but at least they are not running the country. (I suppose that last point is debatable)
4/ Given the passenger list I find the decision to ignore instructions to land elsewhere quite amazing, especially as they had already had to abort earlier attempts to land at Smolensk. I suppose we will never know, unless the black box recordings have some clues, as to why this decision was made. I have to say it is hard to believe that the pilots made the decision themselves. As has already been commented, was the feeling on the plane that the Russians were just being awkward buggers and therefore instructions were given to land and teach them a lesson? Are we expecting to hear a recording of the pilot saying “I have been instructed to land at your airport….”? The search for an answer to this one may run and run.
5/ What kind of horrid job lies ahead for those charged with identifying and then bringing the bodies back home.
6/ Massive funeral coming up.
Unprompted by us, Zosia drew this and placed it by the television.
And one picture from the Palace earlier today