Tag Archives: Katyn

The Smolensk disaster

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.

President

And one picture from the Palace earlier today

President 2

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Rewriting history

Following on from Piłsudski, his WWI exploits and his huge erection. For anyone with an interest in the history of the second World War, particularly those who ended up the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, the new series on BBC2 “World War Two: Behind Closed Doors” promises to make statements that have not really been made before. Not in the English speaking media at any rate. Not out loud.

Just looking at one article in the Telegraph, for example, gives one the impression that things long held to be important by Poles (but largely ignored by others) such as Katyn, might actually be given the kind of attention they deserve.

“……for millions of people the war did not really end until the fall of Communism less than 20 years ago; because in the summer of 1945 the people of Poland, of the Baltic States and of a number of other countries in Eastern Europe simply swapped the rule of one tyrant – Adolf Hitler – for another – Joseph Stalin.”

“Only since the collapse of the Soviet empire have we learnt the full truth, for example, about the horrors of Katyn – when Stalin in the spring of 1940 authorised the murder of thousands of members of the Polish elite. Indeed, the crime of Katyn runs like a cancer through this history, as we see how the Western leaders helped suppress the truth about the murders during the war. “We should none of us ever speak a word about it,” wrote Winston Churchill on a memo in 1943, referring to a secret Foreign Office investigation that was to show that the Soviets had most likely committed the crime.”

Another article from The Times includes;

“The book discusses at length Britain’s dealings with Russia over Poland, noting that the government was much less robust than is sometimes thought about Polish territorial integrity. Poland’s borders, shrugged the Foreign Office as early as 1939, were “fluid”. After initial hesitation, both Churchill and Roosevelt became astonishingly willing to redefine them in Russia’s favour, to discourage Stalin from seeking a separate peace with Hitler.”

Sadly, not many of us will be able to watch the programmes as they are broadcast on BBC2 but if you want to pre-order the DVD you can do so online from the BBC Shop for only 20.99 GBP (circa 95 PLN).

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