Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Tragedy for Poland

I'm sure you've seen the headlines by now: The president of Poland, as well as the heads of the country's four military branches and many other of its leaders (but not Prime Minister Tusk), were killed when their plane crashed on approach to the airport near Smolensk, Russia. They were going to attend ceremonies marking the massacre there of 20,000 Polish military offices by Soviet secret police during World War II.

Reports The New York Times:
The crash came as a staggering blow to Poland, wiping out a large swath of the country’s leadership, including the commanders of all four branches of the military, the head of the central bank, the president and many of his top advisors. In the numb hours after the crash, leaders in Warsaw evoked the horror of the massacre at Katyn, which stood for decades as a symbol of Russian domination.
“It is a damned place,” former president Aleksander Kwasniewski told TVN24. “It sends shivers down my spine. First the flower of the Second Polish Republic is murdered in the forests around Smolensk, now the intellectual elite of the Third Polish Republic die in this tragic plane crash when approaching Smolensk airport.”
If you've been following the news for the past week, Poland and Russia recently held a rather moving joint memorial for that massacre, in which Russian President Vladimir Putin made what I thought were some very strong comments about the victims of totalitarian repression. I'm no fan of Putin's, and I've watched with some small alarm the resurgence of the Stalin fan club in his country. But that's why the statement was even more important. For decades after the war, the Soviet Union blamed the massacre on the Nazis before finally admitting it was committed by the Soviets.

One hopes that this can be clearly proven to have been an accident and that conspiracy theories don't proliferate and destroy the budding rapprochement between these two historic enemies.

Best wishes, Poland.
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