Skip to main content

Orła Białego się na Ziemię - The curse of Katyn

The death of President Lech Kaczynski is hard to write about. It bears so many echoes of the great tragedies of twentieth century Polish history. President Kaczynski is the third leader of Poland to suffer sudden death: The first President of the Second Republic, Gabriel Narutowicz, was assassinated, and of course the wartime Prime Minister, General Wladyslaw Sikorski was killed in plane crash in 1943. It is the death of Sikorski, rumoured, but never proven to be at the instigation of Stalin, that brings the most terrible echoes to Polish ears.

Nor was President Kaczynski the only head of state to die on the plane in Smolensk. The last President-in-exile of the Second Republic, Ryszard Kaczorowksi, was also on the plane. When Lech Walesa was sworn in as the first President of the Third Republic, it was from President Kaczorowski that he took the insignia of office, while the insignia of the "Polish People's Republic", worn by General Jaruzelski was retired to a museum. The symbolism was profound- and deeply moving.

The loss of so many significant figures in a single plane crash is tragic. It is not, however, the "decapitation" that some journalists have described. Neither should one compare the Smolensk disaster with the Katyn massacre that the dignitaries were there to mourn. The Stalinist murder of twenty thousand Polish army officers and leaders of society was indeed an attempt by the Communists to decapitate Polish society. The loss of the Presidential plane, as shocking as it is, only decapitates the Law and Justice Party, of which the President was effectively the co-head with his twin brother Jaroslaw. The fact is that the President had insisted on a separate ceremony in order to avoid a ceremony a few days ago, when Prime Minister Tusk and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had taken centre stage- a function of a deep an bitter political split. Nevertheless the searing wound of Katyn creates, in the death of President, yet more victims. However, we may yet see a glimmer of hope, even though the circumstances are indeed tragic.

The loss of so many of the most intractable Polish Conservatives will change Poland, especially at a time when the power of the Roman Church in the country is under attack as never before. The occasionally paranoid fears of the Kaczynski brothers sometimes threatened the positive work that their obvious integrity had built. It is likely that the eclipse of the PiS will promote a more open Poland, both at home and in international relations. It is also a blow for David Cameron, since the PiS was his one significant ally in Europe.

The President pro tempore is the Marshal of the Sejm, Bronislaw Komoroski, who was hot favourite to beat President Kaczynski when the Presidential elections were due to take place later this year. His aristocratic demenour is a mask for an exceptionally shrewd operator- one who can build a far more significant position for Poland internationally than the defiantly backwoods demeanour of the late President.

One comment was " “The dark, dark symbolism of the whole situation — the weight that Katyn already carries in the Polish national memory — it’s all too much somehow… as though that place were truly cursed for us,”

Amen- and Never Again.


Popular posts from this blog

Post Truth and Justice

The past decade has seen the rise of so-called "post truth" politics.  Instead of mere misrepresentation of facts to serve an argument, political figures began to put forward arguments which denied easily provable facts, and then blustered and browbeat those who pointed out the lie.  The political class was able to get away with "post truth" positions because the infrastructure that reported their activity has been suborned directly into the process. In short, the media abandoned long-cherished traditions of objectivity and began a slow slide into undeclared bias and partisanship.  The "fourth estate" was always a key piece of how democratic societies worked, since the press, and later the broadcast media could shape opinion by the way they reported on the political process. As a result there has never been a golden age of objective media, but nevertheless individual reporters acquired better or worse reputations for the quality of their reporting and

We need to talk about UK corruption

After a long hiatus, mostly to do with indolence and partly to do with the general election campaign, I feel compelled to take up the metaphorical pen and make a few comments on where I see the situation of the UK in the aftermath of the "Brexit election". OK, so we lost.  We can blame many reasons, though fundamentally the Conservatives refused to make the mistakes of 2017 and Labour and especially the Liberal Democrats made every mistake that could be made.  Indeed the biggest mistake of all was allowing Johnson to hold the election at all, when another six months would probably have eaten the Conservative Party alive.  It was Jo Swinson's first, but perhaps most critical, mistake to make, and from it came all the others.  The flow of defectors and money persuaded the Liberal Democrat bunker that an election could only be better for the Lib Dems, and as far as votes were concerned, the party did indeed increase its vote by 1.3 million.   BUT, and it really is the bi

Media misdirection

In the small print of the UK budget we find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British Finance Minister) has allocated a further 15 billion Pounds to the funding for the UK track and trace system. This means that the cost of the UK´s track and trace system is now 37 billion Pounds.  That is approximately €43 billion or US$51 billion, which is to say that it is amount of money greater than the national GDP of over 110 countries, or if you prefer, it is roughly the same number as the combined GDP of the 34 smallest economies of the planet.  As at December 2020, 70% of the contracts for the track and trace system were awarded by the Conservative government without a competitive tender being made . The program is overseen by Dido Harding , who is not only a Conservative Life Peer, but the wife of a Conservative MP, John Penrose, and a contemporary of David Cameron and Boris Johnson at Oxford. Many of these untendered contracts have been given to companies that seem to have no notewo