Yesterday morning Poles around the world woke up to devastating news. Poland’s President, Lech Kaczynski and his wife and approximately 100 of the most senior Polish diplomats, officials and cultural elite perished in a plane crash over Smolensk, Russia. In an ironic twist of fate the Polish delegation was flying to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre during which over 20,000 Poles were killed by Soviet secret police.
News of the accident spread like wildfire as TV channels and news media outlets raced to provide information and updates. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were flooded with personal reactions from people in complete shock and disbelief.
Throughout its history, Poland has faced many tragedies but has also experienced tremendous victories. It’s a place where drama is ripe. Yesterday, many just couldn’t believe that after so many struggles, the country was again dealt such a dark hand. After all, it isn’t just the loss of a nation’s leader but the loss of some of the most talented, ambitious and experienced people who ran the country.
On his Facebook page Warsaw resident Jan D. Sokolowski summed up his thoughts and feelings by saying:
“The scope of this tragedy is simply astounding. We lost two presidents in one day, a first lady, deputy chairs of both the lower and uppers houses, a number of senators, a score of members of the lower house, the head of the National Bank, the head of the National Institute of Memory, all chief generals of all armed forces, bishops, the president of the national bar association and a number of other people.”
After so much political turmoil in the past, there is once again political uncertainty. What will Poland do now? Who will run the nation? Certainly, these questions could easily overwhelm anybody. Listening to commentary and feedback from Poles around the world one gets the impression that Poland will be fine. It is a much different place now then it was before. It is a nation full of optimism, vitality and courage. The Polish people are resilient. In times of tragedy they close rank and unite against any atrocity that dares to stand in their way. In the end, the red and white of the Polish flag always flies victorious.
“What cruel irony that the forests surrounding Katyn 70 years after the massacre of over 20,000 officers claim the lives of Poland’s latest political, cultural and military elite. Regardless of political views, all Poles first and foremost mourn the death of a President, father and grandfather. The sadness and sorrow on peoples’ faces echo their solidarity with the families of politicians we’ve been watching daily on television. Sometimes cursing, other times praising them but today, tearfully mourning them. It remains to be seen whether commentators’ wishes that this tragedy will spur a new, kinder political discourse in Poland is realized. What is certain, is that this national tragedy will unite Poles like no event since the death of Pope John Paul II. For us here, what’s sorely missing, however, are positive events that would unite us as much.” Tomasz Lisiecki, Warsaw, Poland
“It’s so awful…I just read the book ‘When God Looked The Other Way’ about Katyn….an absolutely beautiful book, a personal story, paying homage to all the 25,000 victims in Katyn during Soviet’s occupation….so to wake up to this, is just a complete shock. And the irony so eerie. But you’re right – Poland will get through this – stronger, better than ever before.” Paulina M.Abramowicz
How did you find out about the tragedy?
“We had just finished a meeting about establishing a new Polish Cultural Center of The Pacific and one of the Board members happened to check his computer when he got home and called me right away. I knew 5 people onboard……Devastating.” Caria Tomczykowska
“Email from Poland first thing in the morning…waking up to such tragic news is never good…then a frantic search on the internet trying to find out more details…what a tragic loss.” Joanna Kurowski
**We will be updating this post regularly so please email us photos from the masses, ceremonies and tributes that you have attended. Also send us your feedback letting us know how you felt when you first found out about this tragedy and what you are feeling now.