One of the eeriest facts surrounding Polish President Lech Kaczynski's fatal plane crash
is that he was traveling
to Smolensk, Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn
massacre. The brutal WWII-era tragedy involved the killing of roughly
22,000 Polish reserve officers by Soviet agents. For Poles, the massacre remains a painful national wound. Conspiracy theories have surfaced alleging
Russian involvement in Saturday's crash. However, overwhelming evidence
suggests that dense fog, human error and mechanical problems caused the
crash. Still, this grim incident may threaten Russian-Polish relations.
How will Poland grapple with its latest tragedy?
- A Cruel
Irony, writes The Independent: "The site of the
disaster, in the forest of Katyn near Smolensk, adds a bitter and
mocking irony. Of all the places in the world where the Polish
President's plane could have met with catastrophe, it had to be here: so
close to where the elite of the Polish military was murdered on the
orders of Stalin – a place, and an act, that prevented any real
normalisation of Polish-Russian relations for the whole of the post-war
- Diplomacy May Suffer write The Daily Beast staff: "The crash could have a strong
effect on Polish-Russian relations that have been strained due to
Poland’s close relationship to the U.S. and tensions over the Katyn
massacre the president was intending on honoring." They quote James
Sherr, the head of the Catham House think-tank: "Katyn has been the most
difficult issue up to the present moment. Everyone in Poland knows that
the Katyn massacre was a very small part of a systematic effort by
Russians to get rid of a whole class of Polish people."
Opens Up a Deep Wound, writes Neal Ascheron at The Guardian: "A
people whose collective memory has relied so much on mystical
coincidence, the sense of a providence sometimes loving but often
malign, will be tempted for a moment to think that Katyn will never be
over, that Lech Kaczynski and his companions are not just part of the
tragedy but part of the crime."
- This Carries a 'Terrible
Echo,' writes The Economist: "Some find the
conspiracy theories irresistible. Was not General Wladyslaw Sikorski
murdered in 1943 for embarrassing the Soviet Union about Katyn? Now the
same fate has befallen another brave Polish president. The sinister
symmetry of that theory is misleading, though. Despite extensive
investigation, nobody has found a credible sign of foul play in the
death of General Sikorski. And it seems overwhelmingly likely that the
latest plane crash is a tragic blunder-cum-accident."
- Time for
Russia to Fully Repent, writes David Satter in The National Review:
"Poland and the world will now be distracted from the struggle for the
whole truth about Katyn as the Polish nation mourns its dead. But Katyn
was the subject of a great cover-up, and the eerie symbolism of the
Katyn tragedy, brought home again by the air crash, will not disappear
from Russian-Polish relations until, after 70 years, the Russian side
realizes that there is no virtue in clinging even to the remnants of
what was one of the 20th century’s greatest lies."
- Poland Must
Stop Living in the Past, writes Magdalena Rittenhouse, a
Polish journalist: "There are many reasons why we should learn from,
cherish, and feel proud of our history. But it would be good if it
remained confined to the history books—along with the mystical
coincidences, phantoms, and demons that keep haunting us."
Still Hope for the Future, writes The Independent editorial board: "What happens
next does not depend only on Poland. It depends also, and crucially, on
Russia. So far – in the early and respectful expressions of official
condolences and the dispatch with which arrangements have been made for
recovery and repatriation of the victims – Russia has conducted itself
with propriety and sensitivity. And there is just a chance that, if this
continues, the disaster could help foster a new atmosphere of mutual
confidence. With feelings running high and rumours rife, however,
leaders on both sides will have their work cut out if the damage from
this latest chapter in Poland's difficult relationship with its eastern
neighbour is to be limited."
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