Poland in Mourning

April 10, 2010 marks an unforgettable day of tragedy in Poland. A plane carrying Poland’s President, Lech Kaczynski, crashed while he was en route to Russia in order to attend a World War II memorial service. BBC News reports that all 96 passengers have been pronounced dead.

April 10 was a day intended to honor the Polish victims of a World War II massacre that occurred in Katyn, Russia. However, this day only brought more heartache and devastation to the people of Poland. The plane reportedly collided with treetops as it attempted to land in the fog. Among the other 95 passengers was Kaczynski’s wife, Poland’s army chief, chief of the navy, central bank governor, and several Polish historians.

A child pays his respects to the former President of Poland

The tragedy also has a bitter tinge of irony. The accident claimed the lives of some of Poland’s most elite officials, much like the massacre in Katyn during World War II more than sixty years ago. Former Polish President Lech Walesa tells BBC News, “This is so very much like Katyn...” Walesa’s statement highlights the severity of Poland’s loss as several heads of government are now deceased.

Clean up efforts surrounding the crash continue, but sadly, dozens of bodies are still unidentified. Families and friends of the victims have been traveling to the crash site in an attempt to identify their loved ones. President Kaczynski’s body is among those that have been identified. According to BBC News, his body has been flown home to Poland. Crowds of Poles stood silently as Kaczynski’s casket was driven down the street, and upon arriving at the Presidential Palace, bystanders quietly began to sing Poland’s national anthem.

BBC News reports that although the late president’s policies may not have been well liked by all Poles, the nation has put aside its differences in the midst of this tragedy. Ivonna Nowicks of Warsaw tells Reuters that “We Poles unite in grief, and solidarity is felt everywhere.” Even Russia, a longtime opponent of Poland, realizes that political differences are insignificant at this moment in history. Immediately after the crash, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the site and laid flowers to rest for the victims. Reuters quotes Putin as saying, “This is a tragedy for us too. We feel your pain.”

Poland must continue to move forward as the nation mourns. The Polish constitution allows for an early presidential election in the event of such unforeseen circumstances. Meanwhile, the constitution calls for the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski, to hold the position of acting president until an election can be coordinated. According to The Guardian, Poland plans to vote for a new president by the end of June 2010.

For now, while the nation stands in disbelief, Reuters reports Komorowski’s message for Poland, “Today in the face of such a drama our nation stays united. There is no division into left and right, differences of views don't matter. We are together in the face of this tragedy."

 

For more information regarding the plane crash:

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6390NQ20100410

 

Featured picture was taken from user Piotr Pawłowski on www.flickr.com, which is permitted according to the Creative Commons liscence. The original picture can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/piotrpawlowski/4509018498/.