Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crash stuns Poles around the world

Memorial poem amidst a candle memorial in Lodz, Poland. Photo courtesy of Hanna Marciniak.

Kasia Jagusiak. Photo courtesy of Kasia Jagusiak.


Marcin Marciniak and Sharon Ho
Issue date: 4/19/10

The crash of a plane carrying 89 Polish dignitaries, including the president, shocked Poles, including CSM student Kasia Jagusiak.

Jagusiak, 24, a native of Poland learned of the crash while watching the news. Using Facebook, she quickly contacted her family and friends in Poland. "Poland is in mourning," she said. "The country is stunned. People are trying to find meaning, some reason for this tragedy, to have so many leading minds taken away so quickly and abruptly is stunning."

The plane crashed near the Katyn Woods in Russia, killing all 96 aboard. The delegation was traveling to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre. Among the dead were the Commander of the Land Forces, Commander of the Navy, Deputy Defense Minister, Deputy Foreign Minister, and many top political, business, military and religious leaders. Also traveling on the plane were the families of the Katyn victims, social activists and many distinguished Poles.

"How could they have put so many political, military and business leaders on one plane?" Jagusiak asked.

The plane was a Soviet Tu-154, designed in the 1960s. It had been in service for 26 years. The Bulgarian government has grounded all Tu-154 flights until the official cause of the crash is determined.

The plane was denied permission to land due to weather conditions, but proceeded to attempt a landing anyway, according to reports by Russian investigators.

"The first day there was mostly disbelief and shock," said Hanna Marciniak, 23, a student in Lodz, Poland. "People were gathering in city centers, bringing flags, lighting candles, praying together, crying together."

"The support I've received from my friends, family and other students here on (CSM's) campus has been touching," said Jagusiak.

"Katyn is where so many lives were lost during World War II," said Marciniak. "The Katyn massacre was only two generations ago. It's still fresh in all our minds. Now, Katyn touches us all again, opening up old scars."

Since World War II, Katyn has been a source of tension between Poland and Russia. In 1943, mass graves containing tens of thousands of bodies were found in the Katyn forest in Russia, victims of the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939.

Until 1989, the Soviet government denied involvement and blamed the German army, despite the 1943 finding of the International Red Cross which found the Soviets were responsible. In Poland, the truth about Katyn was passed from generation to generation by oral communication, as anyone who publicly disputed the official version would be prosecuted.

"Their deaths were tragic and unnecessary," Marciniak said. "They died in a very symbolic place. May they rest in peace. I hope that - despite the efforts of politicians and media - that the relations with Russia will improve. The Russians are helping a lot to reveal the cause of the accident."

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