Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Smolensk tragedy of 10th April 2010, Part I

This is a two parter.  Part one is about some of those who died at the tragedy of the plan crash close to Smolensk airport at the 10th of April last year.  Part two will be about the aftermath and will feature an analysis of the Polish national memory.  I'll probably put it here on Sunday.

The tragedy, and some who were killed

In the English speaking press I was very much struck by the fact that there was a focus on the death of the then President of Poland, Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria to the exclusion of the others who died.  It is of course a big event when the president of a country dies, so I can explain this somewhat.  However, a great number of important people also died that day; people whose contribution to Poland was less…..divisive.  Myself, I put this down to the fact that the English speaking world (with the exception of Polish emigrees in the US) know little about Poland, including of the Katyń massacres and things like the Home Army.

Therefore, let me tell you of some of the other victims of the tragedy, people with connections to WWII or with the struggle against the communist authorities.

Ryszard Kaczorowski

Following the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 the scouting movement in Poland as delegalised.  He clandestinely re-created the scouts movement  in Poland and was in 1940 arrested by the NKWD  and sentenced to death; a sentence later changed to ten years in a Gulag.  He was set free in 1941 and, after fighting with the Anders Army, went into exile in the UK.  He stayed there till 1990, by then being the Presdient of the Polish government in exile.  In 2004 he was appointed to the Order of St Michael and St George as an Honourary Knight Grand Cross by the British Queen for ‚his exceptional contribution ot the community of Polish emigrees and their descendants living in the UK‘.

Ewa Bąkowska, Anna Maria Borowska and Bartosz Borowski, Edward Duchnowski, Bronisław Gostomski, Tadeus Lutoborski, Stefan Melak, Stanisław Mikke, Janina Natuslewicz-Mirer, Bronisława Orawiec-Löffler, Katarzyna Piskorska, Andzej Sariusz-Skąpski, Wojciech Seweryn, Leszek Solski, Teresa Walewska-Przyjałkowska and Gabriela Zych

All of them were relatives of those who died at the Katyń Massacres.

Czesław Cywiński

President of the Association of 'Home Army‘ soldiers.  As a member of the Home Army he took part in Operation Ostra Brama from the 7th of July 1944, where the Home Army attacked the Nazi-held city of Vilnius (now in Lithuania, before the war in Poland.)  The Home Army defeated the Germans on the 14th of July, and the next day the NKWD arrested all Home Army members, and he spent the next two years in a Gulag before returning to Poland.

Anna Walentynowicz

She was known as the ‚Grandmother of Solidarność‘, in that it was her firing in the August of 1980 that promoted a strike in the Gdańsk shipyard that spread across the Baltic goast and led to a giant wave of strikes in Poland which led to the creation of Solidarność in the September of that year.

She was fired as she was a member of an ilegal trade union.  She was already known by the management of the shipyards as she was an editor of an underground newsheet ‚The Coastal Worker‘ and was often openly challenging her superiors.

She was later to leave Solidarność, criticising Wałęsa’s policies and continued to distance herself from the union and various political parties that were allied to the union.  In the year 2000 she declined an honourary citizenship of the city of Gdańsk.

Andzej Przewożnik

As Secretary-General for the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites, he was responsible for the memorial site at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Museum of Independence in Warsaw, the Musem of the Warsaw Uprising in Warsaw, as well as the military graveyards at Katyń, Charków and Miednoje.  During the 1980's he had been a member of Solidarność.  While his life story is now as spectacular as the other people here, he did however pay an important role in the post-1989 attempts in Poland to document and commemorate their national memory.

A fuller list of those who died can be found here.

For more on Christian priests, bishops and archbishops who died (RC, Protestant, Orthodox) who died, see here.

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