Tragedy Memorializing Tragedy: Another Sad Day in the Poland-Russia Narrative


kaczynski.jpgThis morning at a conference in Cambridge, England titled “The Economic Crisis and the Crisis in Economics” sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, alerts on the blackberries and iPhones of the various governmental and journalistic representatives here started beeping and vibrating with news that the President of Poland Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria Kaczynska, and various other key officials of the Polish military, foreign ministry and other departments of government were killed when the President’s plane crashed while landing in bad weather in western Russia.
Here is a partial list of those killed in the aircraft disaster.
Poland and Russia were attempting to get beyond the painful historical scars rooted in the execution by the Soviet NKVD of 21,768 senior Polish military officers, government officials and intellectuals. President Kaczynski and his delegation were traveling to Russia to a commemorative service honoring those who had been killed seventy years ago near Katyn in a joint Russia-Poland service.
In October 1989, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to Jimmy Carter and America’s most well-known Polish-American official, visited Katyn at the invitation of then Soviet President Mikael Gorbachev.
Brzezinski commented that:

It isn’t a personal pain which has brought me here, as is the case in the majority of these people, but rather recognition of the symbolic nature of Katyn.
Russians and Poles, tortured to death, lie here together. It seems very important to me that the truth should be spoken about what took place, for only with the truth can the new Soviet leadership distance itself from the crimes of Stalin and the NKVD.
Only the truth can serve as the basis of true friendship between the Soviet and the Polish peoples. The truth will make a path for itself. I am convinced of this by the very fact that I was able to travel here.

Brzezinski also stated:

The fact that the Soviet government has enabled me to be here — and the Soviets know my views — is symbolic of the breach with Stalinism that perestroika represents.

Clearly, what was meant to be a much more public confession by Russian leaders and acknowledgment and reset opportunity for Poles and Russians together at this memorial service will now be a tragedy squared.
Condolences to Poland’s citizens and to the family, friends and colleagues of those killed in this disaster.

— Steve Clemons


10 comments on “Tragedy Memorializing Tragedy: Another Sad Day in the Poland-Russia Narrative

  1. Dirk says:

    My deepest sympathies to the Polish people for their loss, especially at this site.
    One strange angle to this tragedy is when, in Georgia, the Saakashvili controlled TV station staged a nutty “War of the World’s” replay of the previous year’s Russian-Georgia border war. In the fake news broadcast that caused chaos and two deaths in the country, a fictional account of the airplane bombing of the Polish President’s plane occurred. Strange and bizarre.
    Another strange and sad angle is when the actual Russian-Georgia border war occurred, the Polish President showed his solidarity with Georgia by flying to Georgia to stand with Saakashvili at his time of crisis. The pilot declined to land near the combat are and flew to a nearby location. Kaczynski, who had to continue in a car, threw charges of insubordination at the pilot.
    This probably played a role in the sad repeated attempts to land at the site of the Katyn forest
    massacre site. Too sad.


  2. rc says:

    Message delivered: “Don’t f_ck with the Russians.” And Putin flies in to make sure it is clearly understood. Maybe a ‘small’ change in missile policy coming up.


  3. Jackifus says:

    It’s hard for me to believe that a presidential pilot would
    ignore the traffic control or take undo risk. The story is strange
    and all accounts are sourced from Russian media or military.
    I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I point out that this pilot
    behavior sounds odd as reported by the Russians.
    Putin taking charge of the investigation doesn’t give me
    confidence that it will be focused on real events. It’s similar to
    Cheney taking charge of an investigation of possible Bush
    admin failure.


  4. The Pessimist says:

    Jesus H Christ WigWag, the only tactless interpretation regarding the plane crash is your psychotic obsession to criticize anything Obama.
    Do you get your talking points directly from Dickless Cheney or does he feed them to you through his retarded daughter?
    I don’t care if I get banned from this blog for this posting, you are a despicable POS!


  5. questions says:

    “The crash devastated the upper echelons of Poland’s political and military establishments. On board were the army chief of staff, the navy chief commander, and heads of the air and land forces. Also killed were the national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, Olympic Committee head, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers, the Polish foreign ministry said.”
    A lot of top officials.


  6. WigWag says:

    This is a tragedy of epic proportions for the Poles who have seen so many tragedies of epic proportions.
    I hope that President Obama and Vice President Biden go to the funeral; they should be joined by both President Clinton and President George W. Bush. Bush had a particularly good relationship with the Poles that Obama damgaged by the tactless way he handled the missile defense issue.
    The Poles are amongst the most pro-American nations in Europe.
    They deserve our sympathy and respect.


  7. Steve Clemons says:

    thanks questions — that must have been an auto-correct error ironically. thanks much for noting, steve


  8. questions says:

    (You have “executive” when you mean “execution?”)


  9. RobNYNY1957 says:
    Poland is not known for their tolerance of gays which became painfully clear when they elected Lech Kaczynski, the outspoken anti-gay former Mayor of Warsaw, as their president last year. As mayor of Kaczynski twice banned a gay equality parade but allowed an anti-gay “normality parade and is infamous for calling homosexuality un-natural.


  10. Saadia says:

    It seems that in memorializing a commonly shared calamity, the Polish government was trying to get over the idea that bipolarity in its relations with Russia should be existential, even if it suffered at the hands of repression itself. What an ironic twist that government officials should be killed on that occassion. I hope the intent behind their initial journey remains in the minds of the Poles and Russians. Condolences to all affected.


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