The death of the Polish president and other government officials may help heal old wounds between Poland and Russia
I was shocked by the news of the tragic airplane accident that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and many important people in Polish political life. Read more about the tragedy in the article: Polish President Dies in a Terrible Tragedy - is this a Curse of Katyn?
The accident happened near Smolensk airport, in western Russia, on April 10. Poles could not believe the news they heard. They spontaneously gathered in the centers of towns to comfort each other. How could a tragedy of this proportion happen? Why were so many important people flying together in one plane?
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was not in this plane. Here in Idaho, people asked me how the Polish government can function after the tragedy. I assured them it will be fine. The Polish president does not have the same powers as the U.S. president, although he is not just the figurehead like in Germany or the British queen. The Polish government is mainly in the hands of prime ministers and department ministers. Still, this was a tragedy of immense proportions.
It was hard for me personally since I live so far away from my friends and family in Poland. The U.S. news channels informed us scantily about the Polish tragedy. Can you imagine if this had been a terrorist attack? The news channels would talk about it all the time. Some bloggers already believe the conspiracy theories that Russia wanted to harm Poland again, like in the past. On the contrary, I and many others believe that this terrible tragedy may strengthen the Polish-Russian relationship.
Maybe the wounds that were opened by many years of distrust will heal. The response of Russian President Medvedev was immediate and full of frank compassion. Russians promised full cooperation, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Tusk hugged each other at the place of the catastrophe, something hard to imagine a couple of years ago.
Did the world need a tragedy of this proportion to learn about the Katyn tragedy? Read about Katyn massacre.
The reason for this flight was to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the death of over 20,000 Polish officers in Katyn forest near Smolensk in 1940.
These officers were caught as prisoners of war after a surprising Soviet attack into Poland two weeks after the Nazi attack that started World War II in 1939. The massive graves were found by Germans later on, but Soviets did not admit to any responsibility for this tragedy until Gorbachev perestroika. Just as the Katyn tragedy was a source of tension between Poland and Russia, perhaps the Smolensk tragedy can help to heal these wounds.
Jagoda Urban-Klaehn is a columnist for the Polish-American Journal, the largest monthly Journal of Polish-Americans in the U.S., and is a member of the Post Register's (Idaho Falls Daily Newspaper) Readers Advisory Board. This editorial was printed in Post Register and also in Polish-American Journal.
Here is a link to the book about Katyn
Katyn: The Untold Story of Stalin's Polish Massacre, By Allen Paul
and the film done by Andrzejj Wajda, Oscar winner: