Voices from Russia

Monday, 12 April 2010

The Tragedy in Smolensk Brings Russians and Poles Closer Together…

Russian flags in the Kremlin at half-staff in honour of the victims of the recent plane crash in Smolensk.

Here is some appropriate music… the In Paradisum form the Fauré Requiem

On Saturday, 10 April, during its landing approach at Smolensk, a Tu-154M with about a hundred people on board crashed. Amongst the passengers were Polish President Lech Kaczyński and his wife. President Kaczyński was coming to Russia to visit the memorial cemetery at Katyń near Smolensk, which is Russia’s first international memorial complex to the victims of totalitarian repression, RIA-Novosti reported. In addition to the President of Poland, also on board were military chaplains who were to perform a memorial service at the site of mass executions of Polish officers in the Katyń forest in the spring of 1940. In particular, they were the Orthodox Ordinary (Field Bishop) of the Polish Army, Archbishop General of Brigade Miron Chodakowski (Local Church of Poland) and the (Catholic) Field Bishop of the Polish Army, General of Division Tadeusz Płoski, wrote Newsru.com.

Polish President Lech Kaczyński, his wife Maria, and high-ranking Polish officials and leaders of Polish NGOs were killed in a crash of the presidential Tu-154M near Smolensk, in the western region of central Russia. The Polish delegation, headed by President Kaczyński, was flying from Warsaw to Russia for remembrance ceremonies on the anniversary of the Katyń tragedy. The plane with the Polish delegation on board disappeared from the radar screens of Russian air traffic controllers at approximately 10.55 MSK (06.55 UTC 02.55 EDT 23.55 PDT 9 April). Soon after, searchers found fragments from the crashed airliner one kilometre from the airfield in Smolensk. Provisionally, authorities believe that pilot error caused the accident, Sergei Antufiev, the governor of Smolensk oblast, announced. “When it attempted to land, a plane carrying the Polish President fell short of the runway. According to preliminary reports, it hit a grove of trees, crashed, and broke into pieces. There are no survivors of this catastrophe. We still need specific information on how many people were in the delegation. According to initial data, 85 members of the delegation and the crew were on board the aircraft”, Mr Antufiev said.

As directed by President Medvedev, Sergei Shoigu, the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) left for the crash scene, accompanied by Aleksandr Bastyrkin, the head of the RF SKP, and Sergei Levitin, the head of the Ministry of Transport. In the disaster area, the most experienced criminologists and investigators from the RF Procurator’s Office Investigation Committee are searching for clues as to what happened to cause the crash. What we do know is that there was thick fog in the region of Smolensk that morning. Ground control advised the flight crew to land in the Byelorussian capital of Minsk or in Moscow. However, the pilot decided to land in Smolensk. On its fourth attempt at landing, the plane caught on the tops of trees and crashed. When it hit the ground, the aircraft broke in two and burst into flames. According to aviation safety experts, in such a situation, there is no chance of anyone surviving the crash. On board were Polish President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria Kaczyńska, Władysław Stasiak, head of the Presidential Office, General Franciszek Gągor, Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Army, General of Division Bishop Tadeusz Płoski, the head of the Military Ordinariate of the Polish Army (Catholic), Andrzej Przewoźnik, Director of the Council for the Memory of Struggle and Martyrdom, Jerzy Szmajdziński, the former Defence Minister and presidential candidate of the Democratic Left Alliance, as well as other senior officials, politicians, and public figures. This crash was the most serious in the history of aviation disasters in terms of deaths of leading government and public figures on one flight.

Konstantin Kosachyov, the Chairman of the International Committee of the RF Gosduma, said that the death of Polish President Lech Kaczyński in a plane crash near Smolensk on Saturday was a great tragedy for both the Polish and the Russian peoples. “This is a great tragedy for the entire Polish nation, for their president was killed, and regardless of what political views he espoused, and which party was represented, we mourn together with the Polish people”, RIA-Novosti quoted Mr Kosachyov as saying. “This was a terrible tragedy, and, now, the important thing is to organise rescue work, and, in future, to understand the causes of this tragedy. Today, we must focus on the humanitarian aspect; we must put politics to the side”. Mr Kosachyov admitted that he was still somewhat dazed by it all. “Katyń took some more victims”, he said. According to information received from Вести.Ru, President Kaczyński had planned to visit the memorial complex at Katyń near Smolensk, which is the first Russian international memorial complex to the victims of totalitarian repression, the Smolensk oblast administration announced yesterday. Organisers expected that the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the tragic events at Katyń would attract about a thousand members of the Polish NGO “Katyń Families”, as well as Georgy Poltavchenko, the plenipotentiary representative of President Medvedev in the Central Federal Object (TsFO), Sergei Antufiev, Governor of Smolensk oblast, and members of the Polish community of Smolensk. The memorial is located in the Katyń forest, 18 kilometres west of the regional capital. At Katyń, in April-May 1940, 4,421 Polish officer POWs were shot and buried in mass graves. Next to the graves of the Polish victims, there are graves containing the remains of repressed Soviet citizens.

President Dmitri Medvedev (1965- ) pays his respects to the victims at the Polish Embassy in Moscow. The hubris of the West is drawing all other decent peoples closer together…

President Dmitri Medvedev and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk had a telephone conversation in connection with the recent plane crash in Smolensk that claimed the life of Polish President Lech Kaczyński, the Kremlin press service reported. Mr Medvedev expressed his deep condolences on the deaths of the Polish President, his wife, and the members of a large Polish delegation in the accident. He said, “On this difficult day, the people of Russia stand with the Polish people”. President Medvedev informed Prime Minister Tusk of the measures already taken by the Russian government in connection with the tragedy, stressing that he gave instructions for a full and thorough investigation of the causes of the tragedy. “We will carry out this work in close collaboration with the relevant and competent Polish authorities and services. I have given instructions to this effect”, ITAR-TASS quoted Mr Medvedev as saying. Mr Tusk thanked President Medvedev for his condolences and noted the expeditiousness of the Russian side in ordering the proper ministries and agencies to take the appropriate steps in this matter. Both sides stressed their readiness to show the close cooperation needed for a thorough investigation into the cause of the tragedy.

On the eve of the tragedy at Smolensk, Moscow and Warsaw were just a few steps away from making major breakthroughs in their mutual relations. I think it is safe to say that the crash of a Tu-154M carrying an official delegation led by Polish President Lech Kaczyński was a tragic accident. In the event, some discern a mystical pattern… Katyń swallowed up part of the Polish political élite, yet again. It is difficult to shake off such speculations, regardless of the true causes of the tragedy. They will, of course, be known in detail after the results of the work of a special commission to investigate the circumstances of the crash of the Tu-154M near Smolensk are published. No doubt, this commission, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, will carefully analyse all the objective and subjective factors that led to the crash of the Polish aircraft, and it will make considered conclusions based on them. There is no question that the Polish side will also attend to this work. Now, we have to consider something else.

This accident coincided with many key events in the development of Russian-Polish relations. Just recently, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, at the invitation of Russian side, took part in commemorative events at Katyń. It is a matter of no surprise that the “Katyń affair” complicated the relations between the two countries for many years. Therefore, Moscow and Warsaw appreciated Mr Tusk’s visit as having great political and symbolic significance as a mark of the serious intention of the two parties to further the interaction between their countries and peoples, to cross out the wrongs of the past, to embark on improving their relations. Moreover, at their meeting in Katyń, Mr Tusk invited his Russian counterpart, Mr Putin, to come to Poland on an official visit. It is important to note that many factors contributed to the “reconciliation” concerning Katyń. On the one hand, in the course of the global economic crisis, Moscow and Warsaw progressively converged in their relations, as it became obvious it was mutually beneficial to establish economic and trade cooperation on the widest possible parameters, rather than engage in political confrontation.

Indeed, Poland is beginning to show “political fatigue” at the dictatorial behaviour of Brussels. Poland survived a great deal of geopolitical upheaval in its history; perhaps, this explains why it was one of the first states in Europe to see a gradual return of the idea of the nation-state. Furthermore, according to a recently conducted opinion poll, over 70 percent of Poles now see that the main threat to the preservation of their independence comes from the EU. At the same time, the fear of a so-called “Russian threat” at the epicentre of Polish policy dissipated. Not by chance, in this regard, many Western media outlets predicted a renaissance in the development of Russian-Polish relations, an occurrence that could seriously affect the basic contours of European politics. Therefore, now, we should face reality… on the eve of this tragic accident, which led to the death of Polish President Lech Kaczyński, Moscow and Warsaw were literally just a few steps from decision-making breakthroughs in shaping their relations. Consequently, in these difficult days, it is important for both Russians and Poles to demonstrate a firm and mutually felt will to break the tragic mystical connection between the “new Katyń” and the “old” one finally.

President Dmitri Medvedev (1965- ) delivering a televised message of condolences and announcing a day of mourning in Russia for 12 April.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk arrived in Smolensk; where, together with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, he laid a wreath at the crash site where Polish President Lech Kaczyński died earlier in the day, according to ITAR-TASS. Both prime ministers had inspected the visited the crash site earlier. Mr Putin filled in his Polish counterpart about the new developments in the investigation. Both premiers laid flowers in front of one of the fragments of the fuselage of the Tu-154M. Mr Tusk, after placing a bouquet of flowers, knelt down. After this, both men spoke to one another in Russian, embraced, and went to visit the rescue workers who continued to work even after nightfall. Messrs Putin and Tusk had an impromptu bilateral meeting on the scene at the operational headquarters of the emergency services. In connection with the tragedy, 12 April the Russian government announced a Day of Mourning. For its part, Poland declared a week of national mourning.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (1952- ) with Polish Ambassador to Russia Jerzy Bahr at the airport seeing off the coffin containing the remains of late Polish President Lech Kaczyński (1949-2010)

Today, in connection with this tragedy, the Russian government declared a day of mourning. In Poland itself, mourning will last for seven days. Patriarch Kirill expressed his deepest condolences to the relatives of the victims, “This tragedy that took place in the Smolensk region filled my heart with great pain, for I carried this episcopal ministry here for almost 25 years. I deeply grieve over the tragic deaths of the Polish delegation that were flying to Katyń to pay tribute to the memory of their compatriots who were innocent victims killed in this place during the war. From this day, our commemoration of the thousands killed in the Katyń Forest is inextricably linked with the memory of those killed in the crash of this airliner”. President Dmitri Medvedev issued an appeal to the Polish people, in which he also expressed his condolences and promised a thorough investigation of the incident in cooperation with the Polish side. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, together with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk, and the brother of the late President, Jaroslaw Kaczyński, arrived at the crash site and laid flowers. In his address to the Polish people, Mr Putin called the crash near Smolensk a tragedy not only for Poland, but also for Russia. A funeral procession with the coffin of the deceased Polish President Lech Kaczyński arrived at the presidential palace on Sunday afternoon. The date of the state funeral for President Kaczyński has not yet been determined.

Archbishop General of Brigade Miron Chodakowski (1957-2010), head of the Orthodox Ordinariate (Field Bishop) of the Polish Army

Archpriest Dmitri Smirnov, the head of the MP Synodal Department for Interaction with the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies, shared his memories of his friend, Polish Archbishop Miron Chodakowski, who was killed near Smolensk in the crash of the Polish President’s aircraft with our Русская линия correspondent… “This was a terrible tragedy… Now, we pray, we express our condolences. One of those on board the airliner was the Polish Archbishop Miron. With Vladyki Miron, I was not just a colleague; we were friends for many years. Of all the European military chaplains, we formed the most kind, trusting, and affectionate relationship with him. We were real friends. Recently, we were talking together at lunch… Just in March, he came to Moscow, and served together with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. He asked me to arrange this opportunity for him and was very grateful to me for this. His Holiness agreed to it with pleasure”, Fr Dmitri continued.

“Therefore, for me, this event was also a personal tragedy and it just shocked me. He knew my family very well. He often visited us in the department, for he participated in many international conferences. Of course, he was a kind, benevolent, and deeply religious man, naturally. To us Russians, he showed great love and warmth. Vladyki Miron loved Russia and venerated our holy places; he spoke Russian well, and was always interested in Russian affairs. The last time that he visited us, he went to the Trinity-St Sergius Lavra”, Fr Dmitri told us.

“Vladyki Miron worked hard as the Orthodox Ordinariate of the Polish Army and died fulfilling his pastoral duties. In Poland, he had a very large community. He was spiritual father to the military flock. At the same time, Vladyki Miron was very diplomatic. In all respects, he was just an amazing and wonderful man, you couldn’t say otherwise. I simply cannot believe that he is no longer with us; it’s like yesterday that I recently spoke with him. May he rest in the Kingdom of Heaven!”

Fr Dmitri went on to say, “The experience [of Orthodox clergy] serving in the Polish forces could be very important and valuable for [Russian clerics], but, unfortunately, there are many problems in this area. It’s a pity, but in Russia, no matter what, and when no one is looking, everything is done in a very hutsky-klutsky way. We want the best, but, in the end, everything turns out as it always did… in the words of a famous aphorism, ‘In Russia, the party system no longer exists, but the Communist Party still rules’. We see this in this situation”.

In the morning, on 10 April, a Tu-154M carrying an official Polish government delegation to memorial events at Katyń crashed during a landing attempt at an airfield in Smolensk. All members of the delegation, including Polish President Lech Kaczyński, were killed. The dead included a hierarch of the Autocephalous Local Orthodox Church of Poland, Archbishop General of Brigade Miron Chodakowski. As head of the Orthodox Ordinariate (known in Polish as “Field Bishop”) of the Polish Army, he was to serve a Pannikhida for the dead at Katyń. Between 1998 and 2010, Vladyki Miron worked hard to develop the structure of the Orthodox Ordinariate of the Polish Army to improve the quality of its work. Currently, 25 priests serve as chaplains in the Ordinariate. Eighteen of them serve in the Defence Ministry, three in the border guard, and four with the police/fire brigade. Units and garrisons of the Polish Army have seven Orthodox parishes (Ciechocinek, Białystok, Biała Podlaska, Przemyśl, Warsaw (Warszawa), Gdańsk, and Wrocław). The headquarters of the Ordinariate and residence of the Ordinary is in Warsaw. Orthodox chaplains are actively engaged in pastoral work with Orthodox officers, soldiers, and their families. In 2003, he was awarded the title of Doctor of Theological Studies from Warsaw Christian Theological Academy with a degree in church history. On 10 May 2008, in the Polish Army parish church in Biała Podlaska, Metropolitan Sawa Hrycuniak of Warsaw and all Poland elevated Vladyki Miron to the rank of archbishop. Since his installation as the Head Orthodox Hierarch of the Polish Army Ordinariate, Vladyki Miron repeatedly visited Russia, including Kaliningrad. The last time he was in Moscow and Sergiev Posad on 13-15 March this year at the invitation of Archpriest Dmitri Smirnov of the MP Department for Interaction with the Armed Forces. Never forget Vladyki Miron, an honest labourer in the vineyard of Christ!

President Dmitri Medvedev (1965- ) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (1952- ) light candles in memory of the victims of the Smolensk plane crash

On Saturday, President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lit candles in the chapel at the presidential residence in memory of those killed in a plane crash in Smolensk oblast. On 10 April at 10.50 MSK (06.50 UTC 02.50 EDT 23.50 PDT 9 April), a Tu-154M aircraft carrying the Polish President crashed during a landing attempt in Smolensk, killing everyone on board the airliner. 96 people were on the flight, mainly, they were the participants in an official Polish delegation headed by President Lech Kaczyński. The Polish delegation was on its way to the Katyń memorial complex to participate in a service to honour those buried there, [especially the Polish officer POWs and intelligentsia killed there in 1940 by the NKVD].

Over the last few days, Catholic churches in central Russia held memorial services for the victims of the plane crash that killed the president of Poland, his wife, well-known Polish politicians, and prominent Polish clergy. “The head of the Catholic archdiocese in Moscow, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, sent his condolences to the Marshal of the Polish Sejm, Bronisław Komorowski, the spiritual leaders of the country, and all Poles”, a spokesman for Archbishop Pezzi told our Interfax-Religion correspondent. Rev Pezzi admitted that he was “deeply shocked” by the event. “I express my heartfelt sympathy and compassion to all the Polish people, I lift up their prayers for the repose of the victims, and I extend comfort to those in grief. The Lord will take the departed into His Light“, his official message of condolence read. Meanwhile, as our Interfax correspondent reported, Catholic priests celebrated a memorial service at the crash site.

10 to 12 April 2010


Русская линия (Russian Line)

Voice of Russia World Service











President Dmitri Medvedev (1965- ) pays his respects to the memories of his Polish opposite number, Lech Kaczyński (1949-2010), and his wife, Maria Kaczyńska (1942-2010).  May God grant rest to their souls.

Editor’s Note:

Here is, I believe, the heart of it all:

Indeed, Poland is beginning to show “political fatigue” at the dictatorial behaviour of Brussels. Poland survived a great deal of geopolitical upheaval in its history; perhaps, this explains why it was one of the first states in Europe to see a gradual return of the idea of the nation-state. Furthermore, according to a recently conducted opinion poll, over 70 percent of Poles now see that the main threat to the preservation of their independence comes from the EU. At the same time, the fear of a so-called “Russian threat” at the epicentre of Polish policy dissipated.

THIS is where the rubber hits the road. The United States and its lackeys in the EU are reaping the fruits of their hubris, oppression, and outright thievery. What is globalisation, after all? It’s Jesús and María being beaten and brutalised by the bullyboys of the local American client despot to line rapacious American and Western pockets. It’s the open and brazen flouting of our labour laws by shipping our jobs abroad to countries that routinely oppress their populations. It’s the USA dropping bombs on innocent people worshipping on Orthodox Easter (do you remember the heartless USAF ground-crew who chalked “Happy Easter” on their bombs?). Not pretty, is it? It’s driving the decent peoples of the world together to oppose “democracy”, “free markets”, “entrepreneurial capitalism”, and “freedom”. Let’s face it, the threat of Godless Anglo-Saxon Consumerism from the USA and the EU is bringing together Poles and Russians… no small feat, that. Look at the photographs… they don’t lie. Ask yourself a question… “Did the Western media tell me the truth about how globalisation is raping the people of the world?” That makes your new sneakers or your new plasma TV more than just items in your house… it’s your acquiescing in violence and brutality towards those weaker than you are. Excuse me whilst I hurl… spare me your talk of “sole superpower” this and “rational economics” that. Your moralising and smarmy declarations of superiority leave a foul taste in my mouth. God sees this, after all. I doubt that He is pleased…


Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.