Poland – a country in a state of emergency

The plane carrying the Polish president and representatives of the political and military elite crashed in Smolensk during a flight to the Katyn memorial site

At 6.50 o’clock yesterday the plane of the Polish president with a total of 88 passengers and six crew members on board took off for Smolensk. In the morning, a memorial service for the Polish soldiers murdered by the NKVD in the spring of 1940 was to take place at the Katyn memorial site, only a few kilometers from Smolensk. As every year, relatives of the victims and representatives of the Polish state were to take part, including President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria. The Katyn victims link at www.our site/tp/blogs/8/147397 Vladimir Putin and his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk already attended the memorial service on Wednesday, but since Kaczynski did not receive an invitation from Moscow and did not insist on attending for diplomatic reasons, he concentrated on the event planned for yesterday, Saturday.

But the relatives of the victims, who were already present in Katyn, waited in vain for the head of state. At 8.56 o’clock local time link on www.our site/tp/blogs/8/147408. All 96 people on board died in the accident.

"It is a crude tragedy. It can be compared with the loss of our elite in Katyn", said shortly afterwards the former president Lech Walesa to the Polish news channel TVP Info. And similarly to Walesa other politicians of the country, whether conservative, liberal or left-wing, cleaned themselves up. In all the commentaries, apart from consternation and sadness, one can hear this one basic tone: "Cursed Katyn."

A comparison that is not exaggerated. The list of those killed in Smolensk reads like a Who’s Who of political and social life in Poland. In addition to President Kaczynski and his wife Maria, the dead included Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last Polish president in exile, vice-presidents of parliament Krzysztof Putra and Jerzy Szmajdzinski, who was to run against Kaczynski in the fall presidential elections as a candidate of the leftist SLD, Senate Vice President Krystyna Bochenek, Aleksander Szczyglo, head of the National Security Bureau, Wladyslaw Stasiak and Pawel Wypych, Kaczynski’s closest associates in the Presidential Chancellery, the State Secretaries of several ministries, the Director of the National Bank Slawomir Skrzypek, the Commissioner for Civil Rights of the Polish State Janusz Kochanowski, 14 members of Parliament, the entire Polish General Staff headed by Franciszek Gagor, the military bishops of all denominations, Piotr Nurowski, the President of the National Olympic Committee Janusz Kurtyka, Director of the Institute of National Remembrance, Solidarnosc icon Anna Walentynowicz, and representatives of Katyn victims’ associations.

It is not surprising that since yesterday social life in Poland has come to a standstill. Still on Saturday morning all sports events and concerts were canceled. What reigns in Poland is only collective mourning. In front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw yesterday, thousands of people laid flowers, rounded up grave lights and prayed together. Many citizens nationwide have put Polish flags with a mourning flag on their windows and in the churches yesterday funeral services were held.

But it is not only the people who are in mourning, who, according to all the polls, did not re-elect Lech Kaczynski in the upcoming presidential elections in the fall. Donald Tusk, who has been engaged in a constant power struggle with Lech Kaczynski for the past three years, also showed his dismay. "The world today has not yet seen such a drama", said the prime minister after an extraordinary government meeting. A few hours later, he flew to Smolensk, where Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was already waiting for him.

The Smolensk plane crash shocked foreign countries. Like the heads of state of all Western countries, Barack Obama and Angela Merkel expressed their condolences. The Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a rough gesture, which can also be groundbreaking for the future relationship between the two countries. For Monday, the 12. April, Medvedev declared national mourning in Russia.

In the meantime, the political Poland is trying to set the course for the future. The Marshal of the Sejm Bronislaw Komorowski took over Kaczynski’s duties, as prescribed by the treaty. One of the most important acts for Komorowski, who was only crowned as a presidential candidate by the ruling Burger Platform at the end of March, will be the calling of presidential elections. According to the interception, these must take place in the next 74 days. Komorowski’s first official act, however, was to declare a week of national mourning.

The reason for the crash of the presidential plane, an obsolete Russian Tu-154, is not yet clear. However, there is much evidence to suggest that it was a mistake by the pilot, who tried to land at the military airport in Smolensk despite Russian and Belarusian warnings due to heavy fog.

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