One Forest, Two Tragedies, 70 Years Apart

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 12, 2010 | Go to article overview

One Forest, Two Tragedies, 70 Years Apart


Byline: Monika Scislowska Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland The leader of Polands government in exile while the nation was under Soviet-backed rule. The shipyard worker whose firing helped ignite the labor uprising that ultimately toppled communism here. A banking head who helped keep the country stable while the rest of the European Union plunged into recession.

When Poland lost its president and top military brass Saturday in a plane crash that killed 96, it also lost much of its living history and other elite members of society.

It is a supreme bitterness they died near, of all places, Russias Katyn forest, where thousands of Polish officers were slain by Soviet forces in World War II in an attempt to eliminate some of the countrys brightest.

"This is so very much like Katyn, where our head was cut off," former President Lech Walesa said.

Killed with President Lech Kaczynski in the plane crash near Smolensk, western Russia, were his wife, Maria Kaczynska, his closest aides, lawmakers, army commanders, church figures, historic figures, plane crew and relatives of the victims of the 1940 massacre of Polish officers in Katyn and in other places. They had been traveling to Katyn to mark the 70th anniversary.

The Soviet secret police killed thousands of Polish military leaders and intellectuals at Katyn and other places at the start of World War II.

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