Friday, April 23, 2010
On 10 April, President Lech Kacyniski, the Polish First Lady, and 94 others, among them Poland's political elite, died when their plane crashed outside of Smolensk near the Katyn memorial. Kacyniski and his party were flying to Smolensk to observe the anniversary of the Katyn massacre along with Russia's political elite.
I read everything I could about Kacyniski and the memorial service, about Poland in the days after the crash, and then yesterday, I finally watched the film. It is not an easy film to watch. It is very beautiful, but it is also gruesome. The film focuses on the lives of the women whose men died in the massacre, as well as a few of the men who met their end at Katyn. I watched an interview, too, with Wajda, whose father was killed at Katyn. I watched a documentary about the making of the film, including interviews with one of the primary female actors Maja Ostaszewska, whose great-grandfather was executed at Katyn. It felt a bit like viewing someone else's tragic family photograph album.
Poland will survive the loss of Kaxyniski and the others. Already, there are plans for Poland to have an election yet this year, and there will be a peaceful transfer of power. However, the irony of the plane's destination coupled with the 96 deaths seems an awfully cruel blow to the Polish people.
One thing that I did learn on my trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan is how well-respected and -loved the Polish people are in that part of the world. Poland has been quick to assist these new democracies with financial, humanitarian, and cultural resources. That experience, along with my more recent readings and viewings, have given me a newfound respect for Poland and its people. Poland's democracy and its destiny are inexorably linked to its history. May their future be bright.