On Friday, April 9, I returned to Video Americain the DVD KATYN, a brilliant film by Andrzej Wajda about the infamous massacre of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn forest near
Many, many years ago I read J.K. Zawodny’s DEATH IN THE FOREST, which details the horrid crime committed near
This morning on NPR I heard the cruel news of the plane crash of the delegation heading to a commemoration of the Katyn massacre. And on board was one of
Polish leader, 95 others dead in
By JIM HEINTZ
The Associated Press
Saturday, April 10, 2010; 9:01 AM
Russian and Polish officials said there were no survivors on the 26-year-old Tupolev, which was taking the president, his wife and staff to events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.
The crash devastated the upper echelons of
Although initial signs pointed to an accident with no indication of foul play, the death of a Polish president and much of the Polish state and defense establishment in Russia en route to commemorating one of the saddest events in Poland's long, complicated history with Russia, was laden with tragic irony.
Reflecting the grave sensibilities of the crash to relations between the two countries, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally assumed charge of the investigation. He was due in
The Polish presidential plane was headed for a military airport,
Andrei Yevseyenkov, spokesman for the Smolensk regional government, said Russian dispatchers asked the crew to land in either Minsk, the capital of neighboring Belarus, or in Moscow because of the fog.
"But the crew made an independent decision to land in
No one answered the phone at the airport throughout the afternoon Saturday.
Russia's Emergency Ministry said there were 96 dead, 88 of whom were part of a Polish state delegation. Poland's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Piotr Paszkowski, said there were 89 people on the passenger list but one person had not shown up for the roughly 1 1/2-hour flight from Warsaw's main airport.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he had ordered a two-minute silence at noon (1000GMT) Sunday.
"The contemporary world has not seen such a tragedy," he said, offering his "deepest sympathy" to the president's family.
Tusk noted that condolences were pouring in from around the world and noted that "the first came from (Russian) Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev."
Also among the victims was Anna Walentynowicz, whose firing in August 1980 from the Lenin Shipyards in
The deaths were not expected to directly affect the functioning of Polish government:
Poland's parliament speaker, the acting president, declared a week of national mourning.
The plane tilted to the left before crashing, eyewitness Slawomir Sliwinski told Rossiya-24. He said there were two loud explosions when the aircraft hit the ground.
State news channel Rossiya-24 showed footage from the crash site, with pieces of the plane scattered widely amid leafless trees and small fires burning in woods shrouded with fog. A tail fin with the red and white national colors of
"The Polish presidential plane did not make it to the runway while landing. Tentative findings indicate that it hit the treetops and fell apart," regional governor Sergei Anufriev said on Rossiya-24. "Nobody has survived the disaster."
According to the Aviation Safety Network, there have been 66 crashes involving Tu-154s, including six in the past five years. The Russian carrier Aeroflot recently withdrew its Tu-154 fleet from service.
The presidential plane was fully overhauled in December, the general director of the Aviakor aviation maintenance plant in
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev both called Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to express their condolences and they promised to work closely with
"On this difficult day the people of
Putin, who has been put in charge of the commission investigating the crash, told Tusk that he would keep him fully briefed, his spokesman said.
Polish-Russian relations had been improving of late after being poisoned for decades over the Katyn massacre of some 22,000 Polish officers.
Black ribbons appeared in some windows in the Polish capital.
Kaczynski, 60, became president in December 2005 after defeating Tusk in that year's presidential vote.
The nationalist conservative was the twin brother of
Kaczynski had said he would seek a second term in presidential elections this fall. He was expected to face an uphill struggle against Parliament speaker Bronislaw Komorowski, the candidate of Tusk's governing Civic Platform party.
However, the constitution says the parliament speaker, who takes on the duties of president, must announce early elections within 14 days of the president's death.
The vote must be held within another 60 days. This means
"It is very symbolic that they were flying to pay homage to so many murdered Poles," said resident Waleria Gess, 73.
"I worry because so many clever and decent people were killed," said high school student Pawel Kwas, 17. "I am afraid we may have problems in the future to find equally talented politicians."
Klaus Bachmann, a professor of politics at Wroclaw University, said the president "wasn't very popular and it was quite obvious that he would lose the upcoming elections."
"The open question is what will Kaczynski's party and his brother do; he might decide to run for president himself, he might also consider to withdraw from politics at all because he had a very very close link to his brother and I can't imagine how much shocked he must be."
Poland, a nation of 38 million people, is by far the largest of the 10 formerly communist countries that have joined the European Union in recent years.
It has become a firm
The deal, which was struck by the Bush administration, angered
Under the Obama plan,
Kaczynski is the first serving Polish leader to die since exiled World War II-era leader Gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski in a plane crash off
Associated Press writers Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Deborah Seward in Paris, John Daniszewski in Centerville, Ohio, and Naomi Koppel in London contributed to this report.
© 2010 The Associated Press
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs