Reader Reaction: Katyń, a Forest of Death

To the enlightened memory of the 96 souls of the brave Polish patriots who lost their lives in the darkness of the Katyń forest:

According to the NKVD inner records, as cited by those who had a chance to see that part of the documentation on Katyń, the NKVD murderers, on the order of their supervisors, were busy with rather “human” activities after the extermination of 21,768 Polish officers and intellectuals 70 years ago. There were planting a lot of young trees, pines and others, at the scene of the massacre, in a conscious effort to mask the horrific scene. To veil the truth. To bury the history.

Today, 70 years later, that forest has grown up quite substantially. And it is over the nearby trees that the second Katyń has happened to the Polish nation at the days of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the first one when, led by the presidential couple, the 96-strong official delegation of Poland met their death near Katyń. Devastating, shocking, unbelievable – the chilling breath of Katyń’s deadly spirit has hit again. Still alive 70 years later, as the whole world witnessed the devastation in helpless dismay on Saturday, 10 April.

We all could be struck by a murky, paralysing symbolism when the worst possible catastrophe for the Polish nation has occurred at the same place, a place damned for Poland, and at the moment of commemoration of the anniversary of the Katyń massacre.

And how terribly painful and irreversible is the death of those who were symbolising the Polish sense of devoted pursuit of the truth in such a tragic and challenging history of this nation. Katyń 2 claimed the lives of all those people for whom, as well for their families and organisations all over Poland, the pain and consequences of Katyń was the essence of existence. But it does not mean that the second awful tragedy of Poland will prevent the unmasking of the truth about Katyń. Knowing the noble and proud Polish character, one can be absolutely sure that there is no chance for a cover-up, in both a direct and metaphorical sense.

Experts will be working hard to establish the details which led to that catastrophe. And some first obvious prepositions of the analysis have been made already. But there in a deeper meaning in what has happened.

Poland was well aware of the need for a change in leadership. But all who knew Lech Kaczyński and his people knew of their emphasis on modesty, both personal and in the practical ways of ruling the state. They were determined to keep costs low, crisis or no. Principles mattered, not the furnishing of those needs.

As for questions about why so many were all aboard the same plane, there were reasons for that as well. Just a couple of days before the events of 10 April, the Russian leadership had its own ceremony in Katyń, according to its own scenario, and with its own guestlist. It could be said, consequently, that nobody is envying Primer Minister Donald Tusk, or anyone who would find himself in such moral turmoil, now.

Those who were not on that fateful flight were those who did want to be there with the country’s president, going to that ceremony organized solely by the Polish as one team, in an understated but telling move of support of a dignified reading of history and its lessons. Despite the fog.

Katyń Forest still haunts Poland. When we, human beings, do not eradicate evil, it doubles its strength.

The Russian leadership is painstakingly trying to do its best after the second major tragedy in Katyń. Could this all be the beginning of the awakening of their awareness with the simple fact that however uncomfortable the truth is, it is still the best remedy for normal human beings and their societies to preserve their dignity and to earn respect?

And maybe, this awful recent and chillingly symbolic tragedy in the Katyń Forest of Death will make, at last, the Russian leaders to stop the ultra-nationalistic activities of their subordinates, who in spite of all the horrors of Stalinism worldwide are seemingly hell-bent to manifest in their capital Stalin’s mega-posters as a part of décor during the celebrations of the 65th anniversary of the end of the WWII? Now it is time to do something more than just screen a movie, however brilliant, on a state channel of Russia. The unhealed wounds of Katyń are screaming for it.

Inna Rogatchi,

Inna Rogatchi is the writer and president of The Rogatchi Foundation. She is the senior foreign affairs adviser to the European Parliament, and senior strategy adviser to a number of international human rights and modern history institutions.

See also: Polish Tragedy in Smolensk: Key events, news updates, list of victims

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