Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Lithuanian view on Katyn and Smolensk

Ramunas Bogdanas, the former adviser to Lithuanian president Vytautas Landsbergis, has written this interesting commentary on Katyn, which I am glad to give a platform to.

Ramūnas Bogdanas

For 70 years the word Katyn is an open wound in the memory of the Polish nation. It can be healed only by the victory of truth against lie. This battle lasts since 1943, when Goebbels wrote in his diary on the day the Germans were retreating from Katyn: with no doubt the Russians shall blame the Germans for this crime. The Nazi ideologist guessed right because there was no difference in the essence of these enemies. During the trial in Nurnberg the Soviets tried to accuse Nazis of the Katyn massacre but the allies didn’t dare to confirm the fake, and it was nonsuited due to the “lack of evidence”.
The first Katyn annihilated the officers of the Second Republic, and the second – all the top commanders of the Third Republic.
For 70 years Katyn means the opposition of justice against iniquity. On one side – 21,680 killed, on the other – pragmatism, indifference, secrecy.
When the prime minister in exile Wladislaw Sikorski, residing in London, learned about Katyn in April, 1943, he asked Winston Churchill to approach Stalin for explanation. Churchill, knowing the truth, wouldn’t disturb his ally. Stalin suspended all the relations with that Polish government, and just after a month the plane with W.Sikorski crashed when taking off in Gibraltar. At that time the famous soviet spy Kim Philby was operating in Gibraltar as the British intelligence officer.
The President of the USA Franklin d Roosevelt got all the information about the massacre of the Polish from his special emissary in 1944 but he suppressed the report and officially rejected the conclusion.
The first to partially acknowledge the responsibility of NKVD for Katyn was Michail Gorbachev. Later Boris Jelcin handed to Poles a section of documents about Katyn which were always kept in the file No.1 of the First Secretary of the Communist party. The trial was started by the Russian military prosecutor in 1990 but it was closed with no results in 2004. The relatives of the victims approached the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Vladimir Putin invited the Polish prime minister Donald Tusk to visit Katyn on April, 6. On the eve the court in Strasburg received the answer from Russia to the request. It states: “It appeared impossible to get the information about the execution of the decision to shoot particular persons as all the notes are destroyed, and it is impossible to restore them”. So to whom Putin bowed his head next day? According to the official answer to Strasburg it is impossible to tell were almost 22,000 Poles have disappeared.
Another half-true of Russia was the explanation of Putin that the documents are kept secret because of the humanistic reasons as the guilty have offsprings and relatives. According to these logics, all the murders and rapists should be classified. Putin spoke only about the abstract victims of totalitarianism and claimed that Russia has already evaluated the crimes of Stalinism. O course! Moscow is under preparation to welcome the guests of the Victory parade on May, 9 spruced up with the portraits of Stalin. Somehow the Germans don’t display Hitler for eliminating unemployment in the pre-war Germany. When then German Chancellor Willy Brandt visited the ghetto of Warsaw he didn’t start explanations what is the difference between FRG and the Third Reich. Being the antifascist and social democrat from his young days, he performed penance bending his knees on the pavement of the ghetto.
The politics of half-step could be felt in all the setting of the prime ministers meeting. Russia never showed the movie of Andziej Wajda “Katyn” (2007) before. It appeared on TV on the eve of the visit to Katyn but it was on the channel “Kultura” which has a low popularity. V. Putin did invite D.Tusk to Katyn but came himself very late making the Polish prime minister wait for him almost an hour. In the language of diplomats this means: “You must know your proper place”.
The aircraft of the President of Poland plunged into the hardly transparent mist above Katyn both figuratively and directly. That was a private visit, and no high Kremlin officials were waiting for him. As one Russian pilot said on the radio “Echo of Moscow”, the special landing equipment which was brought to the airport to harbor the planes of Putin and Tusk has been removed. But in his not delivered speech Lech Kaczynski wanted to express his delight that the move towards the truth has started in Russia. As his last will the President left his unspoken wish “not to stop by any means” till the truth is revealed. As J.W. Goethe has said, the truth heals the evil. When a man can watch the truth directly into the eyes, he is free.
The meeting of two prime ministers paved the way to the relations based on the marginalizing the uncomfortable truth for the sake of the pragmatic interests of today. But such half-truth would leave Russians with a burden of guilty conscience which then raises the troublesome questions : why does nobody love us?; why don’t we enjoy confidence around? And the Poles would stay with a bleeding wound under a nice bandage. The crash of the Presidential plane didn’t leave a chance for lip–deep truth.
The sudden change in the behavior of Russia might be the reaction to the attempts taken by the American companies to explore the promising fields of shale gas in Poland. They declared the start this month. The success would mean the weakening of the main weapon of Putin’s politics which is Gazprom. If the shale gas is a success that will change the situation all over Europe. It is very pragmatic to get as close to Poland as possible, maybe becoming involved in the gas sector now, at the very start of the shale gas exploiting.
According to one of the US founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, the tree of freedom now and then must be watered with the blood of the patriots. Katyn-2 illuminated the wandering in the twilight like a lightning. “Katyn” of A.Wajda was replayed on the main Russian TV channel in the primetime. The hearts of Poles are full of gratitude for Russian compassion. The sharp Russian journalists declare to be proud of state authorities for the first time after many years.

Lech Kaczynski was mocked not only in Poland where he had almost no chances in the Presidential elections to be held this autumn. He was uncomfortable for EU for his firm principles, and the Western mass media used to sting him. Even after his death the biggest Antwerp newspaper published a contemptible cartoon “The eagle landed” with a picture of the eagle of the Polish coat of arms fallen on the Polish red and white flag.
After the crash there was a version spread that L.Kaczynski himself could press on the pilot to land in spite of the adverse air conditions. This was proven by the false story that he urged the pilot to land in Tbilisi during the military conflict in August, 2008, and after the pilot refused, later he put attempts to fire him. I specifically asked about this the former President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus who was on that flight, and he was seated directly in front of L.Kaczynski so they could communicate during the flight – by the way, that was the same plane that crashed near Smolensk, and the first pilot in the flight to Smolensk kpt. Arkadiusz Protasiuk was a second pilot on the flight to Georgia. Mr. Adamkus witnessed that L.Kaczynski listened to the report of the pilot to land in Azerbaijan instead, and the only question he asked was if the cars to move to Tbilisi were arranged.
Death purified the essence of that man, and the Poles spend long hours queueing to pay homage for this small man with a big heart devoted to his motherland. I t happens often that a person is appreciated only after death. Only then appears the perception that the foundation of the state rests on the basic principles but not on the optimum of pork export.
According to the Constitution the early presidential elections shall be held in June. Thanks to the unknown will on the eve of the flight the twin brother of the President refused to fly together. The explanation about their mother in the hospital is not really sound: the trip would last just half a day.
Due to that decision there is a man in Poland now who is called the strategist of the tandem, the former prime minister in 2005-2007. It seems that the faith points him to continue standing for principles that his brother died for. Jaroslaw Kaczynski is an identical twin. Emotionally, he will seem to the electorate as the embodied president who is buried with the kings in the royal palace of Wawel in Cracow. The memoirs of the Sunday ceremony will still be alive, when only the nice words came from the lips of the visitants, the mighty of this world. Even the future rivals of the election campaign have to select the words of respect at the farewell ceremony. If Jaroslaw Kaczynski participates, the election campaign shall differ. The sceptical words against the gone President will be accepted as a scorn to Poland. The compliments to Lech Kaczynski the Poles accept now as the compliments to Poland. In Poland especially, no one can criticize what brings glory to the state. And the electorate even visually will see the copy of so honoured Lech Kaczynski in the face of Jaroslaw.
Bearing in mind that the accident near Smolensk paves the way to the truth in the story of Katyn, and not forgetting the Polish deep sense of honour I wouldn’t be astonished if J.Kaczynski is elected as the President. His destiny would be to start a new page of Polish – Russian relations which his twin brother opened with a sacrifice of his life.


Giustino said...

It should be Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919.

CLadd said...

More about the prospects for shale gas in Poland, Europe and energy independence from Russia can be found at www.naturalgasforeurope.com

Unknown said...

There are some discrepancies in this article.

First, at the begining flight was planned to Ganja (Azerbaijan), not Tblisi.
In fact the idea of landing in Tbilisi was a change of primary schedule.

Second. President Kaczyński confirmed that he urged the pilot to land in Tbilisi. You can read it on the Presidents office web page: http://www.prezydent.pl/aktualnosci/wypowiedzi-prezydenta/wywiady-krajowe/rok-2008/newsweek-18-sierpnia-2008-r-/

Translation of the journalist question and President reply:

- Is that true that you gave an order to the pilot to fly to Tbilisi?
- By the Polish Army Generals, even on the paper. He refused."

So President Kaczyński himself confirmed what is presented in article as a "false story".

You can find also documents written by Kaczyński's party (PiS) politics afterwards - one is the notification to public prosecutor's office, accusing pilot to "risk President's life", and second - interpellation to the parliament why pilot was decorated with a medal for his behaviour.

Etc., etc.