Saturday, April 10, 2010

Condolences for Poland

Our phone rang at 4:30 this morning with the news that the Polish President and his wife had been killed when their plane crashed while trying to land in heavy fog.

The plane was full of dignitaries heading to Katyn to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet massacre of some 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret security during World War II. It is a testiment to improving Russian-Polish relations that the two countries could come together to mark this sad anniversary.

What has slowly emerged over the last 14 hours is just how devastating this is for Poland. Not only have they lost their head of state, but they have lost a large number of high ranking government officials. Among the dead, in addition to President Kaczynski and his wife, Maria Kaczynska, were Aleksander Szczyglo, the head of the National Security Office; Jerzy Szmajdzinski, the deputy parliament speaker; Andrzej Kremer, the deputy foreign minister; and Gen. Franciszek Gagor, the army chief of staff. The entire top military brass, including the chief of defense and all the services, died in the crash, effectively decapitating the Polish military. They have lost opposition leaders, and all the candidates for President in September's upcoming election save one. The head of the National Bank and their leading gay rights activist were on that plane. And perhaps saddest of all, family members of the people massacred in Katyn were on that plane.

And the last time the Polish government was dessimated this badly was, ironically, at Katyn.

The picture above, coutrsy of the New York Times, is one of the more shows the empty seats reserved for the delegation at the anniversary commemoration.

Slawomir Debski, the head of Poland's Institute of International Affairs, said "We cannot understand why people representing the Polish state died at the same place where thousands of Poland's officers had been murdered. Apparently this soil must like Polish blood."

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