Saturday 10 April 2010

Polish President dies in Aircrash on Way to Katyn Forest

Not sure what to say. I came back home from work to hear the news. A quick check to find out who I know might have been among the 96 people on that plane, the Minister of Culture (though not the one I worked for, I did not know him well) is among the dead. As is somebody in my wife's line of work, though again her colleagues knew him rather more than she did. There was uncertainty who was flying and who not until the last moment, which has hindered the media today in creating a list of those who died. A very close friend, a former archaeologist, works as a close associate of the Presidential couple (as Director of the Office of the First Lady) but the initial news is that she was not on the plane. [Later at four in the afternoon however I was devasted to learn that Iza Tomaszewska was in fact on the plane - a wonderful woman who leaves a lovely husband and kids; she gave up her beloved archaeology to work for Kaczynski when he was Mayor of Warsaw "because archaeology does not pay so well, and I have to think of my pension on retirement"]. A professor friend is also at Katyn today, his father was shot by the NKVD in that forest in 1940, but he was on the overnight train, so is presumably safe.

I had earlier decided to write something here about Katyn as a heritage issue about which I feel quite strongly. That would probably not be appropriate now. From today those forests and the 10th April will symbolise something else for Poland than just what happened there in April 1940.

Lech Kaczynski was not my choice as President, to be honest I could not stand what he and his brother stood for. But a head of state is a head of state and we do not speak ill of the dead. Today a fair proportion of the elite of my adopted country died tragically this morning in the place that symbolises the tragic death of a fair part of the intellectual and social elite of the country seventy years ago. It is difficult to see today what the long term political consequences are going to be.


Anonymous said...

very sad news

David Gill said...

This is a great tragedy - coinciding with the anniversary of Katyn.
Our heartfelt sympathies to the people of Poland.

Mogens Henriksen said...

Dear Paul
I have just realized 15 minutes ago that Iza was among the victims of the plane crash - terrible - and what an empty feeling right now. She was a wonderful and caring person. All our thoughts go to Jacek and the rest of the family. Mogens Bo Henriksen, archaeologist, Odense/Dk.

Paul Barford said...

Yes she was. Her name was not on the list earlier on in the day and I breathed a sigh of relief. This is really tragic, she took me under her wing when I first came to Poland, my wife has known her longer, and Jacek is a very good friend as well. Empty feeling is about right. Wonderful, wonderful person.

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