Poland has so much to mourn


Scene of the Polish aircrash

It must be truly horrific, almost almost of us have had those brief daymares as well as nightmares where we are living through those final moments before a plane crash.

So we are all shocked by the news of the tragic Polish aircrash which took out a generation of leaders from a country that is no stranger to tragedy.

It is that awful selfish moment that haunts me today though. No matter how dreadful the event, I relive it as if it were happening to me. The moment passes, of course, and one day soon, I will climb onto a plane without a second thought.

The Polish crash was special in a number of ways. Every death is sad and the death of national figures is no more important in human terms than any other but it was shocking none the less for its political significance and for putting faces onto that body count.

The truly double horror of it though was that these politicians, generals, senior clergy and veteran war heroes were all on their way to mark the 70th. anniversary of one of those truly horrific 20th. Century acts of barbarity, the Katyn Forest Massacre when, during the Second World War, in April 1940, 22,000 Polish officers and other professional middle class Poles, were systematically shot, one by one, with a revolver to the back of the head, in a dismal Russian forest and in a number of Russian prison camps.

One of the exhumed mass graves in Katyn Forest

Stalin, with his master of horror, Beria, was as immune to the abomination of genocide as was his war-time enemy Hitler and murderous strategist, Himmler. It can be all too easy to list those vast numbers of deaths that were ordered and carried out during a century which will be remembered as a century of shame but, when, at moments like this, you stop to think of those millions as individual people each facing such a terrible end, then it is almost to much to comprehend.

Exhumed remains from Katyn Forest

Just as I relive those final moments of Polish President Kacynsky, his wife and his colleagues, so I flinch from images of those Polish soldiers being shot in the forest. Once visualised it never goes away.

So when reading newspaper accounts of the Polish national mourning, those other earlier victims flash repeatedly into my mind.

I don’t believe in ghosts but those deaths in the forest will never quite go away. They stay hovering somewhere in the air with the screams of the Holocaust victims, so many of them from Poland too.

We have to move on and we do but, for me at least, on a beautiful Spring morning, not just Poland but this planet has almost too much to mourn.

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